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United States

Civic Engagement in Decision-Making Processes (US0078)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United States Action Plan 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: NA

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: United States End-of-Term IRM Report 2015-2017, United States Mid-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Major Major

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Civic Participation , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Creating a more open government and successfully addressing our nation’s greatest challenges requires the active participation of an informed and active citizenry representing all sectors of society. Facilitating the participation of a broader range of stakeholders through new avenues can help leverage fresh perspectives and empowers communities to help solve problems. By enabling and scaling the use of open innovation methods, including through challenges, citizen science, and crowdsourcing, the United States will harness the ingenuity of the public to accelerate innovation across government and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government,

IRM Midterm Status Summary

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 26. Open Innovation

Commitment Text:

Engage the Public on our Nation’s Greatest Challenges

Creating a more open government and successfully addressing our nation’s greatest challenges requires the active participation of an informed and active citizenry representing all sectors of society. Facilitating the participation of a broader range of stakeholders through new avenues can help leverage fresh perspectives and empowers communities to help solve problems. By enabling and scaling the use of open innovation methods, including through challenges, citizen science, and crowdsourcing, the United States will harness the ingenuity of the public to accelerate innovation across government and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government, including through commitments to:

  • Increase the Impact of Open Innovation Activities. Over the last five years, as agencies have used and designed open innovation programs more effectively, such programs have become more ambitious in design, making a greater impact across sectors. Some examples include the Department of Health and Human Services, which will expand the Climate and Health Innovation Challenge Series, a public-private partnership launched in June 2015 to build awareness, knowledge, and action at the intersection of climate change and human health. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency will expand the use of citizen science approaches in environmental research by engaging amateur beekeepers to provide data to better understand the effects of environmental stressors and by engaging citizen scientists in research on harmful algal blooms using smartphone microscopy. The U.S. Geological Survey will roll out Science Cache, a web and mobile-based app for engaging the public in citizen science projects, such as finding huckleberry plants in Glacier National Park and taking pictures and recording data to inform research on climate change impacts. The National Archives will expand its citizen archivist program that makes records more accessible online to include citizen-scanning of Federal records in the agency’s new Innovation Hub.
  • Redesign Challenge.gov as a Platform. Challenge.gov is the government’s website that catalogues opportunities for the public to provide solutions to issues that government is working to address such as providing better access to services for veterans and empowering women and families. In 2016, the United States will launch a new version of Challenge.gov to make it easier for the public to discover, understand, and participate in prizes and challenges. The General Services Administration will also release an open source version of Challenge.gov to enable implementation by governments around the world to improve citizen engagement, encourage entrepreneurship, and develop breakthrough solutions to meet national needs.
  • Coordinate Open Innovation Opportunities Across Government. Federal agencies will catalog their current open innovation activities including prizes, challenges, citizen science, and crowdsourcing activities. Agencies will list all prizes and challenges on Challenge.gov. In addition, the General Services Administration will create a new project database that lists citizen science and crowdsourcing projects from across government. To continue to build the evidence base for open innovation, agencies will contribute metrics-driven case studies for open innovation activities to the Open Innovation Toolkit.

Responsible Institutions: Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration (GSA), Health and Human Services (HHS), National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Park Service (NPS) in the Department of Interior, and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Supporting Institutions: Federal agencies, academia, civil society organizations, and the public

Start Date: Not Specified End Date: Not Specified

Commitment Aim

This commitment aimed to leverage open innovation methods to improve government efficiency and effectiveness by:

Expanding several pre-existing open innovation programs run by federal agencies and developing new ones;

Redesigning Challenge.gov[1] to make it more user friendly, and releasing an open source version of the platform for use by other countries’ governments; and

Cataloging all federal agencies’ current open innovation challenges and prizes on Challenge.gov, developing a new government-wide database of citizen science and crowdsourcing projects, and contributing open innovation case studies to the Open Innovation Toolkit.

Status

Midterm: Substantial

At the midterm, the government had made substantial progress on this commitment:

With respect to Milestone 26.1, various federal agencies made substantial progress on expanding pre-existing open innovation efforts. These agencies include the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ (NIEHS) Climate Change and Environmental Exposures Challenge[2] (completed in February 2016).[3] Others include the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) CyanoScope initiative[4] to facilitate crowdsourced water testing (launched during the midterm evaluation period). As noted in the government’s midterm self-assessment report,[5] the National Archives citizen scanning initiative was also underway. More than 65,000 pages of records had been scanned and uploaded at the midterm. Progress on two new initiatives took place after the close of the midterm reporting period. These included the EPA’s HiveScience and the US Geological Survey’s ScienceCache.[6] Progress on those two initiatives is therefore evaluated in the End of Term section below.

With respect to Milestone 26.2, the government launched the PrizeWire blog.[7] The blog serves as a platform to highlight the impact of Challenge.gov initiatives and share stories, news, and updates. However, this constituted limited progress toward “a new version of Challenge.gov” as stipulated in the action plan. By the close of the midterm reporting period, the government had also not yet released an open source version of Challenge.gov.

Regarding Milestone 26.3, approximately 25 federal agencies joined Challenge.gov during the midterm reporting period, bringing the total to more than 100 agencies.[8] In April 2016, the government also launched an online catalog of existing open innovation initiatives called Citizenscience.gov. At the time of writing, the website catalogued projects from roughly 25 federal agencies. Collectively, these activities resulted in substantial completion for this milestone at the midterm. The Open Innovation Toolkit was not publicly available at the midterm, and its content could not be evaluated.

End of term: Substantial

This commitment remained substantially complete at the end of term, with the majority of progress on this commitment occurring during the midterm reporting period.

In line with efforts to expand open innovation efforts, on 29 March 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched HiveScience. This citizen science, mobile app-based program allows beekeepers to submit hive health reports and send honey samples to the EPA.[9] Through these data collection efforts, the EPA aims to better understand the declining health of honeybees nationwide. In a separate effort, the US Geological Survey launched ScienceCache. This geocaching mobile application framework facilitates crowdsourced, place-based data collection in national parks.[10] The agency developed the application during the end-of-term reporting period.[11] It officially launched the application via the Apple App Store on 7 July 2017, just outside of the end-of-term reporting period.

Beyond the improvements to Challenge.gov documented at the midterm, the IRM researcher did not observe any additional changes to the website. Also, the government did not release an open source version of the platform. Thus, completion for Milestone 26.2 remained unchanged at the end of term. According to the General Services Administration (GSA), the Challenge.gov Program Management Office worked with web developers, security, and other technical staff in Fiscal Year 2016 to explore options for an open-source version of Challenge.gov. However, the Office determined that the proposal was cost-prohibitive. In Fiscal Year 2017, the Office interviewed stakeholders and conducted usability testing for the new Challenge.gov platform. Inputs were compiled at the end of the fiscal year and integrated into a request-for-information (RFI) issued for software-as-a-service solutions. The new platform is expected to relaunch in 2018.[12]

Regarding Milestone 26.3, at the end of term, the Citizenscience.gov catalogue included listings for 409 projects across 26 government agencies. The number of agencies participating in Challenge.gov remained unchanged at the end of term.[13] In addition, the proposed Open Innovation Toolkit was not completed. Completion for Milestone 26.3 therefore remains substantial at the end of term. According to GSA, the Challenge.gov Program Management Office nonetheless worked closely with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Office of American Innovation in Fiscal Year 2017 to build a coalition of agencies that could evaluate open innovation approaches in the areas of water research and technology, including the water-energy nexus.[14] According to GSA, this work helped lay the foundation for later events that took place after the close of the action plan. For example, the White House held a roundtable in March 2018 on challenges and prizes.[15] At this event, the Department of Energy announced a request-for-information (RFI) to formally request public input on how prizes and challenges can address water issues.[16] Later, in April 2018, the Challenge.gov Program Management Office convened multiple federal and state agencies that are working to leverage challenges and prizes for opioid abuse prevention, treatment, and law enforcement.[17]

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Major

Civic Participation: Major

This commitment significantly opened government with respect to both access to information and civic participation.

The improvement in government practices related to access to information stems primarily from the launch of CitizenScience.gov. That launch represents a key advance in centralizing information on government-supported citizen science projects. The public’s access to information has also been enhanced by the user-centered enhancements and addition of 25 agencies to Challenge.gov. Such involvement further expanded the scope of public access to information on government challenges and makes it easier for individuals to track relevant challenges and their submissions. Lastly, by February 2018, there were 7,100 records with citizen-contributed images as part of the National Archives citizen scanning initiative.[18] These new documents are available online at the Innovation Hub[19] and can also be searched on the National Archives Catalog.[20]

The expanded upon or launched open innovation projects by various federal agencies have led to greatly expanded opportunities for engagement with and interaction between government and the public, and there is potential for strong continued engagement going forward. At the end of term, the Citizenscience.gov catalog included 409 projects spread across 26 agencies,[21] highlighting the magnitude of these opportunities. Moreover, the efforts of expanded citizen-government engagement and collaboration on open innovation projects is already becoming apparent. In one notable example,[22] tools that visualize climate change effects—developed by the winners of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Climate Change and Environmental Exposures Challenge—were subsequently incorporated into the US Climate Resilience Toolkit. The tools are intended to “help people manage their climate-related risks and opportunities, and improve their resilience to extreme events.”[23] Examples such as this demonstrate increasing civic engagement, as well as the promise of ongoing innovation in the US through these initiatives.

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing, the US government had not published its fourth national action plan, so it is unclear if this commitment will be carried forward. However, the activities described under this commitment are substantially complete, with mechanisms in place to facilitate their continuation. They, therefore, do not need to be carried forward to the next national action plan.


[1] Challenge.gov., https://www.challenge.gov/list/, consulted 5 October 2017.

[2] “The NIEHS Climate Change and Environmental Exposures Challenge,” National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, https://www.niehs.nih.gov/funding/challenges/climate_change/index.cfm, consulted 5 October 2017.

[3] Ibid.

[4] CyanoScope, https://cyanos.org/cyanoscope/, consulted 5 October 2017.

[5] United States of America, Midterm Self-Assessment Report for the Open Government Partnership: Third Open Government National Action Plan, 2015-2017, September 2016, 28, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/USA_NAP3_self-assessment-report_20160916.pdf, consulted 5 October 2017.

[6] Ibid.

[7] PrizeWire, Challenge.gov, https://www.challenge.gov/prizewire/, consulted 5 October 2017.

[8] According to a web archive of the site on 19 September 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20150919003759/challenge.gov/about), more than 75 agencies participated at the start of this action plan. The government stated in its self-assessment that more than 100 agencies now list challenges and prize competitions on Challenge.gov. This figure is on the “About” section of the website (https://www.challenge.gov/about/). For the self-assessment report, see United States of America, Midterm Self-Assessment Report for the Open Government Partnership: Third Open Government National Action Plan, 2015-2017, September 2016, 28–29, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/USA_NAP3_self-assessment-report_20160916.pdf, consulted 5 October 2017.

[9] “HiveScience,” Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.epa.gov/citizen-science/hivescience, consulted 20 September 2017.

[10] “ScienceCache,” Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.usgs.gov/centers/norock/science-cache?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects, consulted 20 September 2017.

[11] “Release Page,” ScienceCache, Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.usgs.gov/software/sciencecache, consulted 20 September 2017.

[12] The IRM received this information in a comment submitted by the General Services Administration during the pre-publication review of this report. The comment was received via e-mail on 30 April 2018.

[13] “About,” Challenge.gov, https://www.challenge.gov/about/, consulted 20 September 2017.

[14] The IRM received this information in a comment submitted by the General Services Administration during the pre-publication review of this report. The comment was received via e-mail on 30 April 2018.

[15] Matt Lira and Guillermo Mendoza, “The Trump Administration Supports Fostering Innovation by Leveraging Prizes and Challenges,” White House, 20 March 2018, https://www.whitehouse.gov/articles/trump-administration-supports-fostering-innovation-leveraging-prizes-challenges/, consulted 4 May 2018.

[16] “DE-FOA-0001899: Critical Water Issues Prize Competition RFI,” US Department of Energy, EERE Funding Opportunity Exchange, 12 March 2018, https://eere-exchange.energy.gov/default.aspx#FoaId45c72943-674f-484c-8592-1b95b0906387, consulted 4 May 2018.

[17] The IRM received this information in a comment submitted by the General Services Administration during the pre-publication review of this report. The comment was received via e-mail on 30 April 2018.

[18] “Innovation Hub – Recently-Scanned Documents,” National Archives, https://www.archives.gov/innovation-hub/recentlyscanned, consulted 28 February 2018.

[19] Ibid.

[20] “Citizen Contributor,” National Archives Catalog, http://bit.ly/2IBGl4R.

[21] “Catalog,” Citizenscience.gov, https://ccsinventory.wilsoncenter.org/, consulted 29 September 2017.

[22] “The NIEHS Climate Change and Environmental Exposures Challenge,” National Institute of Environmental Health Services, https://www.niehs.nih.gov/funding/challenges/climate_change/index.cfm, consulted 29 September 2017.

[23] “About the Climate Resilience Toolkit,” US Climate Resilience Toolkit, https://toolkit.climate.gov/content/about-climate-resilience-toolkit, last updated 29 June 2016, consulted 29 September 2017.


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