Daines, Coons present bill to push use of crowdsourcing, citizen science

U.S. Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced bipartisan legislation last week to ultimately increase the use of crowdsourcing and citizen science by the federal government in an effort to speed up scientific research, literacy and diplomacy.

This legislation is groundbreaking in that it is the first to explicitly authorize the use of such methods by the U.S. government.

“In the private sector, I’ve seen firsthand how empowering Americans to innovate can yield cost savings, greater efficiencies and better results,” Daines said. “The federal government should encourage the same by enlisting tools like crowdsourcing and citizen science in many of its projects. The best solutions to the challenges facing our nation are going to come from small businesses and the American people — not big government. This bill helps encourage the federal government to pursue innovative, citizen-driven solutions.”

If signed into law, the Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act of 2015 would provide clarity and establish guidelines for government agencies to utilize the public as a resource to solve problems, without the burdensome step of securing any new funding or authorizations.

“Open innovation tools like crowdsourcing and citizen science can present solutions to real challenges by drawing on the knowledge, creativity, and expertise of citizens, but it’s an approach that is too often underutilized in government,” Coons said. “This common-sense bill would empower people from all over the country and world to work together to help tackle problems and questions our government faces today that are increasingly too big in scope and complexity to solve without the public’s input and assistance.”

Specific provisions included in the legislation would: clarify that executive branch agencies, commissions and all military branches have the explicit authority to make use of crowdsourcing and citizen science projects; provide guidelines for how to carry out these projects, and make sure that all volunteer participants know what they will do and how their contributions and data will be used; answer unresolved questions about data access and availability, technology and code access, data ownership, data publishing, and data use; and encourage agencies to design projects across agencies and in partnership with the private sector, educational institutions or other local agencies.