Innovation in Government

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

EPA and other federal agencies are tasked with finding solutions to some of the world’s most pressing and complicated problems. These problems require innovative solutions, which EPA supports through use of crowdsourcing, citizen science, and public engagement.

Two of these efforts have advanced to the semifinalist stage of the 2017 Innovations in American Government Awards presented by the Harvard Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. The award recognizes and promotes excellence and creativity in the public sector.

Here’s a quick look at the two EPA-connected projects.

CitizenScience.gov and the Federal Community of Practice for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science

In 2012, a small group of EPA and other federal agency officials recognized a surge of interest in citizen science and crowdsourcing. This informal group grew to the Federal Community of Practice for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science, an organization with over 300 members representing over 60 agencies. As co-chair of this rapidly expanding and productive group, EPA participates in and aids high-level federal efforts to facilitate and implement crowdsourcing and citizen science.

One of these efforts is CitizenScience.gov, which was created in partnership with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Commons Lab at the Wilson Center, and the General Services Administration. The site includes a searchable catalog of federally-supported citizen science and crowdsourcing projects, a Toolkit to assist with designing and maintaining projects, and a gateway to the Federal Community of Practice. The resources this site provides helps the public and the federal community work together to address the complex problems our nation faces. The group continues to focus on increasing and enhancing in citizen science and crowdsourcing across the federal government.

The Village Green Project

Village Green station in Durham, NC

Village Green station in Durham, NC

The Village Green project is an EPA-led, community-based research effort to demonstrate real-time air monitoring technology, engage the public in learning about local air quality, and collect high-quality data for research.  Working with state and community partners, the Village Green team places park benches in cities across the US that provide local, real-time air pollution measurements using low-cost monitoring sensor technologies. Each solar- and wind-powered system continuously measures two common air pollutants (ozone and fine particulate matter), as well as wind speed and direction, temperature, and humidity. The measurements are transmitted to a website every minute.

Beyond measuring the air and weather, the Village Green Project is also about engaging with neighbors in the immediate area about their environment and the public on the web. The station can be used as a community gathering place to learn about new technology, the environment, or simply to sit down and read a book. The stations are currently all located in public environments, including elementary schools, public libraries, the National Zoo, a national park historic site, and a public children’s garden. Learn more about the Village Green Project.

 

About the Author: Kacey Fitzpatrick is a writer on the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.