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Welcome to the Open Innovation (OI) Community Wiki

Open Innovation Community 

The Open Innovation (OI) Community welcomes anyone interested in using participatory science and innovation methods like Crowdsourcing, Citizen Science, and Prize Competitions to obtain ideas, data, services, and solutions from the public and organizations in an open way. The Ignite Open Innovation (OI) Forum is a series of different talks and panels to inform the development of a USGS Open Innovation Strategy.

Join Open Innovation Community Listserv

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, send an email to: and

Point of Contact: Sophia B Liu

Innovation Specialist, Science and Decisions Center (SDC), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
USGS Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Coordinator
Co-Chair of the Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science (FedCCS) Community of Practice

What does Open Innovation mean?

Open Innovation: Open Innovation is an umbrella term that refers to participatory methods and techniques for obtaining ideas, expertise, and resources from the public, organizations, and experts in an open way.

Citizen Science: The public participates voluntarily in the scientific process, addressing real-world problems in ways that may include formulating research questions, conducting scientific experiments, collecting and analyzing data, interpreting results, making new discoveries, developing technologies and applications, and solving complex problems.

Crowdsourcing: An open call for voluntary assistance from a large group of individuals for gathering ideas, observations, or services. Many crowdsourced efforts use rigorous procedures to ensure data quality, such as checking for agreement from multiple volunteers or developing verification protocols.

Challenges & Prize Competitions: An approach to federal contracting that promotes innovation by offering a monetary or non-monetary reward upon completing a specific objective or task. Prize competitions are a proven way to increase innovation for the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. Incentivized, open competition is a standard tool in many agencies’ toolboxes for delivering more cost-effective and efficient services, and advancing agencies’ core missions.

Civic Hacking: A creative and collaborative approach to problem solving. Hackathons are gatherings that encourage meaningful engagement between technology developers, designers, data scientists, subject matter experts, civil society, and other relevant stakeholders, making them great places to understand our users, build volunteer community and capacity, as well as recruit new talent. The goal is to produce quick and creative solutions, learn new tools and skills, and meet new people.

Upcoming Meetings

Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science (FedCCS) Community of Practice

FedCCS June 2020 Meeting
"NOAA Citizen Science on Data Quality" and "EteRNA OpenVaccine for COVID-19"

Thursday, June 25, 2020 at 2:00 – 4:00 PM Eastern Time

JOIN FedCCS Listserv for Meeting Invites by emailing:

FedCCS Meetings are typically every last Thursday of the month. We are shifting the time to start at the top of the hour at 2:00 - 4:00 PM Eastern with the last 30 minutes available for informal virtual networking. The FedCCS June 2020 Meeting will include a presentation from Laura Oremland on citizen science data quality from NOAA Case Studies and from Do Soon Kim on the EteERNA OpenVaccine COVID-19 Challenge. 

Laura Oremland (NOAA Citizen Science Co-Coordinator) will provide an overview of NOAA’s citizen science programs, describe the data quality assurance and quality control processes applied to different programs, and summarize common themes and recommendations for collecting high quality citizen science data.   

Do Soon Kim (visiting researcher at Stanford University) will talk about the Eterna OpenVaccine Challenge for COVID-19 and how they are harnessing online gamers to develop mRNA vaccines stable enough to be deployed to everyone in the world and not just a privileged few.

Agenda (Times in Eastern Time Zone)

2:00 - 2:10 PM  FedCCS Introductions, New Members and Team Site - Participate in Menti Poll (View Menti Poll Results)

2:10 - 2:40 PM  Laura Oremland - “Can We Trust the Power of the Crowd?  A Look at Citizen Science Data Quality from NOAA Case Studies

2:40 - 3:10 PM  Do Soon Kim - “Eterna OpenVaccine: Stabilizing mRNA Vaccines for COVID-19 through Crowdsourcing”

3:10 - 3:30 PM  Open Forum: Agency Updates and FedCCS Member Lightning Talks

3:30 - 4:00 PM  Informal Virtual Networking

Can We Trust the Power of the Crowd?
A Look at Citizen Science Data Quality from NOAA Case Studies

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a rich history in citizen science dating back hundreds of years. Today NOAA’s citizen science covers a wide range of topics such as weather, oceans, and fisheries with volunteers contributing over 500,000 hours annually to these projects. The data are used to enhance NOAA’s science and monitoring programs. But how do we know we can trust these volunteer-based efforts to provide data that reflect the high standards of NOAA’s scientific enterprise? This talk will provide an overview of NOAA’s citizen science programs, describe the data quality assurance and quality control processes applied to different programs, and summarize common themes and recommendations for collecting high quality citizen science data.   

Laura Oremland serves as one of NOAA's Citizen Science Co-Coordinators. She has been with NOAA since 2002 and resides in the NOAA Fisheries Office of Science and Technology in Silver Spring, MD where she also manages education programs and works in science communications. She has a BS in mathematics from the University of Kentucky and an MS in marine science from SUNY Stony Brook.


Eterna OpenVaccine:
Stabilizing mRNA Vaccines for COVID-19 through Crowdsourcing

Eterna (@EternaGame) is a browser-based "game with a purpose" developed by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University with funding support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Players solve puzzles related to the folding of RNA molecules and can also suggest new puzzles. Similar to Foldit—created by some of the same researchers that developed Eterna—the puzzles take advantage of human problem-solving capabilities to solve puzzles that are computationally laborious for current computer models. The researchers hope to capitalize on "crowdsourcing" and the collective intelligence of EteRNA players to answer fundamental questions about RNA folding mechanics. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Eterna project is looking to harness online gamers toward a solution. The mission is to develop mRNA vaccines stable enough to be deployed to everyone in the world and not just a privileged few. COVID-19 has highlighted the need for widely deployable, equitable vaccines. Although mRNA vaccine feature unique advantage compared to traditional vaccine modalities, there are critical roadblocks that must be addressed before it can be deployed widely. Eterna launched the OpenVaccine challenge to mobilize the citizen science community to help navigate this difficult scientific challenge through gamifying one of the toughest challenges in RNA biochemistry: sequence-structure prediction. This talk will describe Eterna's current effort to design a more stable mRNA vaccine against COVID-19.

Do Soon Kim is currently a visiting researcher in the laboratory of Professor Rhiju Das at Stanford University working on the OpenVaccine project. He is pursuing his PhD at Northwestern University in chemical engineering studying synthetic biology, and first got involved with Eterna from his interest in biomolecule design.


Open Innovation Resources

Past Open Innovation Meetings

 Ignite Open Innovation (OI) Forums are a series of different talks and panels to inform the development of a USGS Open Innovation Strategy.

Join USGS Open Innovation Teams Site

Search for USGS Open Innovation Team using Code: mom37z3
For non-DOI employees that want to join, send an email to request access to: and

Ignite OI Forum Stream Channel

Watch past meeting recordings on Stream (only accessible to DOI Bureaus). Recordings also available on Past Meeting Webpages.

COVID-19 Open Innovation Efforts

Federal Open Innovation Resources

The Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science (FedCCS) Community of Practice works across the government to share lessons learned and develop best practices for designing, implementing, and evaluating crowdsourcing and citizen science initiatives. The FedCCS is a grassroots community open to all federal practitioners working on, funding, or just interested in learning more about crowdsourcing and citizen science. We seek to expand and improve the U.S. government’s use of crowdsourcing, citizen science, and similar public participation techniques for the purpose of enhancing agency mission, scientific, and societal outcomes. For more information, check out the FedCCS 2-Page Overview, FedCCS File Sharing Trello Site (contains past FedCCS Meeting Notes and other resources), and visit:

FedCCS Community Meetings are every Last Thursday of the month at 2 - 4 PM Eastern Time.

FedCCS Community Listserv

FedCCS is for Federal Employees only

FedCCS Community Team Site
(Code: m3375mh)

For non-DOI employees, send an email with subject line
Join FedCCS Team Site” to the following emails: and is the official hub for prize competitions and challenges across all federal government, and a web platform that assists federal agencies with crowdsourcing ideas and solutions directly from the public, or “crowd.” The website enables the U.S. government to engage citizen-solvers in prize competitions for top ideas and concepts as well as breakthrough software, scientific and technology solutions that help achieve their agency missions. This site also provides a comprehensive toolkit, a robust repository of considerations, best practices, and case studies on running public-sector prize competitions as developed with insights from prize experts across government.

Federal Challenge & Prize Community

Join by sending an email to with "Join Challenges Community" in the subject and enter your name + agency you work for in the body.

Past Open Innovation Forum Meetings

Tackling the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA)
in the Age of Social Media and Web-based Interactive Technology

Thursday, June 18 at 2 PM Eastern

overlapping screenshots of the desktop view and mobile view of the new Guide to the PRA

Crowdsourcing, citizen science, and prize competitions are open innovation techniques for engaging, educating, and empowering the public to contribute their talents to a wide range of scientific and societal issues. Often these contributions come from a large number of volunteers and can vary in the types of information or activity being requested. When the federal government collects information from 10 or more non-federal people, this often requires Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) Clearance to ensure we reduce the burden on the public for collecting information. Although these open innovation activities are often voluntary and not typically seen as a burden on the public, there is still growing confusion on if PRA applies to these public engagement projects and how to complete the PRA process. In this Ignite Open Innovation (OI) Forum, we have three Information Collection Clearance Officers from DOI (Jeff Parrillo), USGS (James Sayer), and FWS (Madonna Baucum) that will explain the basics of the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), discuss how the PRA applies to crowdsourcing, citizen science, and prize competition activities, as well as a Q&A discussion with the audience.


  • Jeff Parrillo - Department of Interior (DOI) Departmental Information Collection Clearance Officer
  • Madonna Baucum - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Information Collection Clearance Officer (DOI alternate)
  • James Sayer - U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Information Collection Clearance Officer


  • Background on the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA)
  • Discussion on how the PRA applies to Crowdsourcing, Citizen Science, and Prize Competition activities

Indigenous Observation Network (ION):
Community-Based Water Quality Monitoring Project

Friday, June 19 at 2 PM Eastern

The hydrology of the Yukon River Basin has changed over the last several decades as evidenced by a variety of discharge, gravimetric, and geochemical analyses. The Indigenous Observation Network (ION), a community-based project, was initiated by the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (YRITWC) and USGS. Capitalizing on existing USGS monitoring and research infrastructure and supplementing USGS collected data, ION investigates changes in surface water geochemistry and active layer dynamics throughout the Yukon River Basin. Over 1600 samples of surface water geochemistry (i.e., major ions, dissolved organic carbon, and 18O and 2H) have been collected at 35 sites throughout the Yukon River and its major tributaries over the past 15 years. Active layer dynamics (maximum thaw depth, soil temperature and moisture) have been collected at 20 sites throughout the Yukon River Basin for the past eight years. Important regional differences in geochemistry and active layer parameters linked to permafrost continuity and tributaries will be highlighted. Additionally, annual trends and seasonal dynamics describing the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of the watershed will be presented in the context of observed hydrological changes. These data assist the global effort to characterize arctic river fluxes and their relationship to the carbon cycle, weathering and permafrost degradation.

Ryan Toohey

Ryan Toohey, hydrologist and Science Applications Coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey's Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center (AKCSC). His interests in water quality led Toohey to pursue an environmental science degree from Huxley College at Western Washington University. He graduated with an environmental science degree in the year 2000, having focused on water quality and Geographic Information Systems. In 2012, Toohey received an interdisciplinary joint Ph.D. in environmental science with a focus in both hydrology and agroforestry from the University of Idaho and the Centro Agronómico  Tropical de investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE) in Costa Rica. In addition to his position at the Alaska CASC, Toohey serves as an Affiliate Research Assistant Professor for the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks where he mentors several graduate students. Toohey believes working with students is a highly rewarding part of the research process, and is consistently involved in gathering funding for student internships and producing publications, community reports, and conference presentations with undergraduate and graduate student co-authors. 

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