University of New Orleans faculty member Michelle Thompson will participate in a citizen science forum at the White House on Wednesday, Sept. 30. Thompson, an associate professor of planning and urban studies, will be among the scientists, innovators, community organizers, philanthropists and government officials taking part in “Open Science and Innovation: Of the People, By the People, For the People.” The forum will be livestreamed from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. CST.
Thompson will be involved in a workshop discussion on coastal and community resilience. According to organizers, she was selected because of her leadership in creating WhoData.org, which brings together students, volunteers and neighborhood residents to collect data on quality of life and property conditions in New Orleans neighborhoods after Hurricane Katrina. The mission of WhoData.org, a project supported by UNO's Department of Planning and Urban Studies, is to provide an online mapping tool based on a survey and data collection platform that is consistent across all of the city’s neighborhoods. Thompson was also picked for the forum because she is an ardent advocate for open data at the local level to supplement the data collected by the public.
The White House forum will also hold sessions on democratized tools; water and agriculture; and crowdsourcing, communities and health.
According to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, only a small fraction of Americans are formally trained as scientists, but that doesn’t mean that only a small fraction of Americans can participate in scientific discovery and innovation. Citizen science and crowdsourcing are approaches that educate, engage and empower the public to apply their curiosity and talents to a wide range of real-world problems. To raise awareness of these tools and encourage more Americans to take advantage of them, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Domestic Policy Council will host the forum.