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FAQ

What is the Open Government Partnership?

The Open Government Partnership is a new, multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. More information at http://opengovpartnership.org

How does this relate to the Open Government Initiative?

The White House’s Open Government Initiative is a U.S. domestic effort, launched on the President’s first full day in office, to work toward an “unprecedented level of openness in government.” Over the past two years, responding to the President’s Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, Federal agencies have done a great deal to make information about how government works more accessible to the public, to solicit citizens’ participation in government decision-making, and to collaborate with all sectors of the economy on new and innovative solutions.The Open Government Partnership will strengthen the momentum towards more open and accountable government that we see emerging around the globe. By participating in the Open Government Partnership, the United States will build on the foundation that we have established through the Open Government Initiative, and identify next steps toward promoting the President’s commitment to transparency, participation, and accountability in government.

What is NASA’s role in the Open Government Partnership?

NASA continues to be a leader in the United States Open Government Initiative and is supportive of the Open Government Partnership. NASA’s participation in the United States Domestic Plan is included under the “improving public services” and will “promote innovation through international collaboration.” The specific language will be “The U.S has used prizes and competition to foster a culture of innovation in both the public and private sectors. In this spirit, the United States will: Launch International Space Apps Challenge. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and key space agencies around the world will gather with scientists and concerned citizens to use publicly-released data (e.g. Earth science and planetary observations) so as to create solutions for global challenges such as weather impacts on the global economy and depletion of ocean resources. Working together, a collaboration site will be created to facilitate citizen participation.”

Can you provide a more detailed description of the activity?

Demonstrating its commitment to the Open Government Partnership, NASA will coordinate with other interested space agencies around the world on an International Space Apps Challenge that will encourage scientists and concerned citizens from all seven continents – and in space – to create, build, and invent new solutions in order to address challenges of global importance. The International Space Apps Challenge is an innovative international collaboration that accelerates the development of solutions focused on making government better and addressing critical issues on our planet, such as (but not limited to) weather impacts on the global economy and depletion of ocean resources. The unique challenges NASA faces in spaceflight often result in solutions to issues we see everyday here on Earth, and development of these solutions can be expedited when leveraging the expertise and entrepreneurial spirit of those outside government institutions. NASA will work with other interested space agencies around the world to host the International Space Apps Challenge, develop problem statements, and make space data available to support the endeavor.

What exactly is the event purpose?

To develop technological solutions to space and societal challenges by engaging citizens and using publicly available space data and technology.

Why is this Important to NASA?

The President¹s FY 2012 budget request continues to focus Agency efforts on a vigorous path of innovation and technological development leading to an array of challenging and inspiring missions to destinations with an incredible potential for discovery, increasing our knowledge of our solar system, developing technologies to improve life on Earth, expanding our presence in space, increasing space commerce, and engaging the public. NASA’s strategic plan calls for international collaboration and challenges NASA to explore together by engaging citizens, harnessing the spirit of innovation, and developing crucial research and technology capabilities that will be required for us to move beyond low Earth orbit. The International Space Apps Challenge provides an opportunity for government to leverage the expertise and entrepreneurial spirit of citizen explorers help address challenges of global importance. The event embraces the concept of ‘open innovation’ to improve performance, inform decision-making, encourage entrepreneurship, and solve problems more effectively.

What are some of the benefits of an International Space Apps Challenge?

  • Encourages international partnership and collaboration around space exploration
  • Engages citizens around the world to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges using space data and technology.
  • Maximizes the impact of space exploration on the challenges at home by identifying existing technologies originally developed for space exploration and applying them in innovative ways to solve global challenges.
  • Incentivizes countries with space programs to open data sets, which will catalyze their own data.gov domestic initiatives as part of the Open Government Partnership.
  • Provides citizens in countries without a space program an opportunity to contribute to space exploration through open source, open data, and code development.
  • Promotes STEM education by encouraging students from around the world to share engage in global space exploration to create solutions for global challenges

What are some potential products of an International Space Apps Competition?

  • Development of a collaborative platform to share early-stage Government technology-based innovations and receive feedback from citizens and commercial stakeholders. The platform will accelerate technology transfer by involving citizens during the initial phases of technology development projects through collaborative problem solving around a shared challenge. It will introduce creative and innovative concepts that could help to evolve government to be more efficient and effective in serving and empowering citizens.
  • A tool to leverage distributed crowdsourcing analysis by citizens to help process, archive, distribute, and visualize data for space exploration related missions. Already a proven method of scientific discovery, NASA and the international space agencies will expand their use and access to additional missions and create a universal platform for community data analysis. This platform will evolve current intergovernmental efforts focused on space exploration and create a vehicle for world-wide open innovation.
  • …and many more

Who is leading NASA’s involvement?

Implementation of the International Space Apps Challenge is being led by the Open Government team within the Office of the Chief Information Officer. The Open Government team will be convening a working group consisting of key stakeholders from around the agency to initially guide the effort and will be seeking international participation from other space agencies and interested organizations. The Open Government team has experience with Random Hacks of Kindness and plan to model this event after our previous success. Here’s some more information on RHoK if you are interested: http://open.nasa.gov/blog/2011/06/13/nasas-part-in-random-hacks-of-kindness/.

What form do the products take?

The Space Apps Challenge will produce open-source code that can be developed and used by civil society in all Space Apps Challenge partner countries.

Where will the event be held?

The event will be based on the Random Hacks of Kindness model which, on average, takes place twice a year in 20 cities around the world engaging more then 2000 citizens per event. Likewise, the International Space Apps Challenge will be held in cities worldwide, at simultaneous locations, to be defined based on interest.

Is this a single event or a continuing activity?

A single, two-day event, similar to a Random Hacks of Kindness event. This is not an ongoing activity.

What are the criteria for problem statement idea submissions?

We’re currently in the first phase of collecting ideas and inputs for problems. (Note that we are looking for problems that could be solved using NASA data – not as much for existing solutions.) The next phase will involve seeking subject matter experts and mapping ideas to datasets and problem owners, which will then permit the development of a final, matured problem list for the Challenge.

Please note that we are not a funding source, and this Challenge is rooted in the open, free sharing of information.

Scope of problems: Problem statements can fall into two main categories: focused on space exploration or focusing on benefiting humanity. (either locally or globally) Lots of great problems that we’re all interested in that don’t meet this criteria, but there are also some other really good venues to work on these so we’ll ask you to take them elsewhere.

Format of problems: Problems can frame a general challenge or offer new dimensions on an existing project.

Problem ownership: Problems will ideally have owners – often the person who authored the problem statement: someone who can offer guidance, more detail and validate concepts. As we take ideas and develop problem statements together, we will work to match those problems to subject matter experts who can lead the charge.

Forking encouraged: Just because someone’s already worked on a problem doesn’t mean you can’t create a new variant or start a new solution. But look carefully before you jump into something similar to what already exists and make sure there’s real value in a new statement or new approach.

Collaborations encouraged: Often the best thing we can do for a project is add diversity to the team. New collaborations add new skills and perspectives and can make a better product.

Be user-focused: Think about your users when framing problems and creating ideas.

Old problems: Problems (and solutions) will live beyond the event. Some will go inactive, and that’s fine. The archive of old problems is an interesting place to start if you’ve no other inspiration.