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The Sciences

GAO cites ECAST: “Practices to Engage Citizens and Effectively Implement Federal Initiatives”

Citizen Science Salon iconCitizen Science SalonBy Alycia CrallOctober 21, 2016 6:00 AM
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In-person forums and online platform used by ECAST to gather data for the Asteroid Data Hunter Challenge

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The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is the investigative arm of Congress charged with examining matters relating to the receipt and payment of public funds.  This week, the GAO published a new report on ways federal government agencies can engage and collaborate with multiple entities and individuals external to these agencies to address existing and future challenges facing the nation.  The report identifies and provides examples of best strategies for open innovation defined as “using various tools and approaches to harness the ideas, expertise, and resources of those outside an organization to address an issue or achieve specific goals.”  GAO identified five open innovation strategies currently practiced by federal government agencies: idea generation; open data collaboration; open dialogue; prize competition or challenge; and crowdsourcing and citizen science.

One of the strong examples of open innovation initiatives cited in the report was the Asteroid Data Hunter challenge.  This challenge was a collaboration between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (ECAST).  ECAST was cofounded by the following institutional partners who encourage public input on science and technology policy issues: Arizona State UniversityLoka InstituteMuseum of ScienceWoodrow Wilson Center for ScholarsSciStarter and Science Cheerleader.  For this initiative, ECAST held a number of in-person and online Asteroid Initiative Citizen Forums to gather information on individual preferences, priorities, and values relevant to asteroid issues.  NASA used these data to inform decisions on ways to detect, mitigate threats from, and explore asteroids.  The forums also assisted NASA in better understanding how to engage the public in the work that they do.  “It’s incredibly validating to have the US Government Accountability Office single out our approach in this report,” said Darlene Cavalier, one of the founders of ECAST. “I’m very proud of the collective efforts of the ECAST team, including those from Science Cheerleader and SciStarter.” Want to learn more about this and other open initiatives identified by the GAO?  You can read the full report here.

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