Preview of US National Action Plan for the #OGP includes increased commitment to #OpenInnovation

Preview of US National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership includes increased commitment to Open Innovation:

Relevant section from plan:

Empowering Citizens and Fostering Open Innovation

Creating a more Open Government and addressing our Nation’s most challenging issues requires an informed and active citizenry. Citizens are critical to economic development in the global economy, where trade and investment flow to countries protected by the rule of law that gives citizens the freedom to create and develop new ideas. The United States will continue to expand opportunities for public participation in government, recognizing the value of the American public as a strategic partner in addressing some of the country’s most pressing challenges. The second NAP will include U.S. commitments to:

• Harness the ingenuity of the public by enabling, accelerating, and scaling the use of open innovation methods such as incentive prizes, crowdsourcing, and citizen science within the Federal Government;

• Expand opportunities for public participation in the development of agency regulations; and
• Launch pilot collaborative public-private platforms to help monitor performance and safety issues for consumer products. 


Science in Space: Contest Selects Experiments Headed for Space Station

Calling all citizen scientists! The nonprofit organization that manages American-led research aboard the International Space Station announced the winners of its public contest to design experiments to send to the orbiting outpost.

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) held a month-long contest, called “What Would You Send to the ISS?” to cultivate interest in the orbiting laboratory, and to solicit ideas for how to use the facility to benefit humans on Earth. The grand prize winner, Elizabeth MacDonald, proposed flying a geo-tagged video camera to the International Space Station to record real-time images of the northern and southern lights.

The aurora images could be posted on the Aurorasaurus website, a citizen science project that aims to build accurate, easy-to-use and real-time maps of aurora sightings. The images, which are also shared over social media, can also be used to improve space weather forecasting, and to better understand details of auroral behavior. [Northern Lights: Amazing Aurora Photos of 2013]

For winning the contest, MacDonald will receive $10,000 and a trip to Florida to witness the launch of her idea to the space station.

“I am very excited to have won and grateful to CASIS for this amazing opportunity,” MacDonald said in a statement. “The Aurorasaurus citizen science project aims to connect observers of the northern lights in real-time using social media, allowing more people opportunities to see their extraordinary beauty. Incorporating observations from the orbiting space station will be a unique vantage point and tremendous resource for our growing community.”

CASIS was selected by NASA in 2011 to manage the space station’s U.S. National Laboratory. The organization is responsible for maximizing use of the onboard facilities while the space station remains operational, which NASA officials have said will be until at least 2020.

The contest was held from Aug. 19 through Sept. 16, and members of the public were invited to vote for the best ideas. Those votes were tallied with responses from the CASIS Science & Technology Advisory Board.

In addition to awarding the grand prize to MacDonald, CASIS also selected four runners up:

Chun-Ti Chang – Testing the ‘Atomic Spectra’ Of Excited Sessile Drops
This entry suggests using microgravity to better understand movement within fluid droplets as it relates to Earth-based 3-D printing, personalized medicine and microelectronic circuits for semiconductors. Larger fluid droplets can be made in microgravity and analyzed to yield higher resolution data.

James Goodman – An ISS CubeSat Laboratory Using Arduinos and 3D Printing
This idea seeks to improve the small satellite capabilities of the ISS National Lab by on-orbit manufacturing of CubeSats. By combining 3D printing and Arduino technology (small microcontrollers used in electronics) in space, the ISS can be a manufacturing platform. This could be particularly useful for improving response to time-critical events, such as satellite imaging of natural disasters.

Khalid Marhlaoui – Materials Melting in Microgravity+Vacuum
This entry suggests improving materials science capabilities on the ISS National Lab by sending metal-melting furnace hardware to space. This could help in the analysis of existing functional materials and the discovery of new alloys for Earth applications.

Jonathan Morris – Impact of Space on Commensal Microbiota and Host Response
This entry suggests studying commensal (“healthy”) bacteria in space.  Since microgravity alters the way bacteria grow and interact with each other and their human hosts, studies of these bacteria in space will inform us about human health and diseases like diabetes and Crohn’s disease on Earth.

Follow Denise Chow on Twitter @denisechowFollow us @SpacedotcomFacebook or Google+. Originally published on

.@NASA, @Harvard & @TopCoder Partner to Develop a Secure Solar System Internet Protocol

SAN FRANCISCO, CA–(Marketwired – Oct 31, 2013) – TopCoder, the world’s largest professional development and design community, with NASA and the Harvard-NASA Tournament Lab (at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science), today announced the launch of a series of innovation challenges that will develop foundational technological concepts for disruption tolerant deep space networking.

NASA has made significant progress in developing Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) protocols that aide in deep space communication. DTN protocols are an approach to network architecture that seeks to address the potential for lack of continuous connectivity in deep space. It is meant to aid NASA in the exploration of the solar system by overcoming communication time delays caused by interplanetary distances, and the disruptions caused by planetary rotation, orbits and limited transmission power.

While DTN protocols are currently able to transmit information, the disruptive and time delayed environment in space makes secure communication difficult. TopCoder is challenging its members to create a mechanism by which cryptographic keys are initialized, distributed and validated while using DTN protocols in order to provide secure communications over vast distances in space.

There are currently three DTN challenges available on the TopCoder website :

1. Security Key Challenge: Strengthen DTN communication by adding the ability to include cryptographic keys.
2. Delay-Tolerant Payload Conditioning (DTPC) Challenge: Validate an implementation of the DTPC protocol developed by Marshall Space Flight Center.
3. Licklider Transmission Protocol (LTP): Add “sender authentication” to the space flight implementation of the protocol.

TopCoder is inviting its members and anyone else in the world to help create the future of space exploration by participating in the DTN Challenge Series. Learn more at

Comments on the news
“Born out of a belief that 10 years in the future (i.e. about 2023) a richer networking environment than point-to-point radio links would be required to communicate, a small team of developers debated the architecture of an interplanetary Internet,” said Vinton Cerf, Distinguished Visiting Scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google. “Today, that vision is being fulfilled with prototype operations on the surface of Mars and in orbit, on the International Space Station and on board the EPOXI comet-visiting spacecraft.”

“Contest-based innovation has proven to be an important complement to existing internal efforts to solve important technological problems,” said Karim R. Lakhani, Lumry Family Associate Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and Principal Investigator of the Harvard-NASA Tournament Lab. “The Disruption Tolerant Networking challenges represent an opportunity for citizens from around the world to make fundamental contributions to the future of space exploration and have a real impact on the space program.”

“The TopCoder community is helping us build a secure networking protocol to hold and transmit information that provides privacy within a time-delayed space-network,” said Rinat Sergeev, NASA Tournament Lab, Data Scientist and Institute of Quantitative Social Sciences, Harvard. “This is the first time we have tapped the professional crowd to help develop a major keystone in the future era of space exploration and look forward to seeing the community’s 600,000 member strong response.”

About TopCoder, Inc.
TopCoder, the community division of Appirio, is the world’s largest design and development community with more than 600,000 members globally. The TopCoder community creates digital assets including analytics, software and creative designs and solutions with a competitive, standards based methodology. For more information, please visit

GEMS launches $1m prize for education, to the “world’s greatest teacher”. #teachers

The charitable arm of the international schools group GEMS is launching its own “Nobel-style” prize for education.

The Varkey Gems Foundation will award the $1 million (£624,000) prize to the “world’s greatest teacher”, following a nomination process and the vote of an international jury. The winner will be announced at the Global Education & Skills Forum in Dubai next March.
The award, announced on Tuesday, appears to be a direct challenge to the WISE Prize, awarded by a charitable arm of the Qatari government. That award, which has also been compared to the Nobel, is worth $500,000, half the amount of its new challenger.
Sunny Varkey, the chair of GEMS and founder of its philanthropic arm the Varkey GEMS Foundation, said that his “goal for this award is to emulate the Nobel Prizes, but in the field of education”.
“We want to promote teachers as stars and to support the quality of education to highlight the enormous impact teachers have on our lives,” he added. “We will endeavour to find the greatest teacher in the world.”
The third WISE prize winner was unveiled on Monday at the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), a conference currently taking place in the Qatari capital, Doha. The winner was Vicky Colbert, a Colombian sociologist who in 1975 invented a new more collaborative model of schooling to improve provision in rural Colombia. 
Colbert’s Escuela Nueva model is now used in 16 countries.

.@NASA and Harvard are Using #Crowdsourcing to Create New Communication Protocols for Space Exploration

As you might imagine, NASA has big ambitions for human-kind and our future of deep space travel. One of the major challenges involved in deep space exploration is establishing secure and timely communications. Whether it be the sheer distance between planets, disruptions caused by planetary rotation, or a lack of limited transmission power, the task of communicating in and through these environments is quite challenging. NASA has been creating and testing DTN (Disruption Tolerant Networking) protocols, which they deem necessary for future exploration. From the Disruption Tolerant Networking for Space Operations page on

“For Exploration, DTN is necessary to enable network communications utilizing multiple communication assets and network paths that increases the robustness of the communication network. DTN enables increased timeliness of data return from operating space assets. By improving data timeliness we are reducing risk, reducing cost, increasing crew safety, improving operational awareness, and improving science return, all of which lead to an increased return on investment for the agency.”

And though NASA has made significant progress in creating DTN protocols, they are using crowdsourcing for three distinct challenges that they believe can help shape the future of space exploration. NASA and the Harvard-NASA Tournament Lab (at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science) have teamed up with TopCoder to launch the Disruption Tolerant Networking Challenge Series. In addition to the dedicated DTN challenge site (linked previously), the official press release was issued today containing details of the 3 specific crowdsourcing challenges accompanied by quotes from several key leaders who helped bring the DTN challenge series to life. Several graphics were also created to communicate both the importance and the overall challenge at hand which you can enjoy directly below.

If you are interested in participating in any of the 3 challenges – please visit to register and compete. 

Harvard-NASA Tournament Lab DTN Challenge on TopCoder - Poster


Another version, showcasing a ‘basic’ service operating in a DTN was also created:


Harvard-NASA Tournament Lab - DTN description of challenge poster


We look forward to witnessing the TopCoder Community yet again push the boundaries of crowdsourcing, and by doing so, help NASA and Harvard push the boundaries of exploration for all human-kind. We kindly ask that you share this post and challenge series with your networks, peers, colleagues, family and friends so that the very widest audience gains the opportunity to participate, and by doing so, to help shape our future. Thank you. 

NewSpace Business Plan Competition 2013 Winners Announced

Generation Orbit Launch Services has won first place and $100,000 in the 2013 NewSpace Business Plan Competition, presented yesterday by competition Project Manager, Tom Olson at Stanford University.

Eligos, Inc earned second place in the competition, along with a $25,000 prize. 3rd place, and a $10,000 award were given to Raptor Space Services. Prospect Dynamics won the $5,000 Market Sector prize in the field of on-orbit servicing.

The Space Frontier Foundation and judges congratulate the winners and thank all the finalists for their participation. The awards were presented on October 24th at the Stanford Space Entrepreneurship Conference, the hosts of this years competition.

“This event provided an excellent opportunity for us all to learn more about the economic dynamics of the American emerging space ecosystem,” said

Alex MacDonald, Program Executive for NASA’s Emerging Space Office, “and this event also hopefully helped to nucleate a few more great American space companies.”

The judges were very impressed with the caliber of this year’s entrants, and remarked on the fact that each successive competition the Foundation hosts attracts more worthy competitors.

The judges encouraged all the finalists to continue to seek funding, as all of them presented viable business cases. The eight finalists presented their business plans pitches to an audience of over 200 investors, entrepreneurs and students during the Stanford Space Entrepreneurship Conference, after honing their presentations during the previous two-day business plan boot camp, presented by industry professionals and investment experts.

“I’m excited to see the steadily increasing level of professionalism and innovative ideas of this year’s contestants, and look forward to following their success,” said Eva-Jane Lark, a competition judge and vice-president of the BMO Nesbitt Burns investment firm in Canada.

“It’s great to see more investors attending and becoming aware of the NewSpace Business Plan Competition and this emerging NewSpace industry.”

The Space Frontier Foundation and judges would like to extend their heartiest thanks to NASA’s Emerging Space Office for its generosity in providing funding for this grand prize. By supporting this competition, NASA and the Emerging Space Office enable commercial space companies to meet the needs of not only NASA, but the needs of the space industry as a whole, and we hope to see further support from NASA for this type of activity in the future.

Additional funding provided by ATK and the Heinlein Prize Trust helps the competition continue to grow and attract innovative competitors, and we thank them for their support. Special thanks go out to the Space Angels Network as well, who created a specialized fund this year to invest in a BPC team of their choice.

Additionally, the Space Finance Group has generously offered free coaching services to the winners, in an effort to help catalyze their success.

The Space Frontier Foundation also sincerely thanks the judges, boot camp coaches, sponsors and all who worked on the 2013 NewSpace Business Plan Competition. Their contributions were truly invaluable.

DARPA’s Next Challenges: Self-Patching Software and Healing the Brain

The mad scientists at the Pentagon love a challenge, and this week they’ve got two. DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, announced new projects this week intended to find new answers about what goes wrong during brain disease and to build computer systems that could patch their own networks for incredible real-time IT security. 

The smaller of the endeavors, money-wise, is the Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC)—a name meant to echo the vehicle grand challenges the agency has staged in the past. DARPA calls this new one “the first-ever tournament for fully automatic network systems.” CGC would call on research teams to design a system that can go into network (one DARPA specifically built to interact with automated systems), evaluate the software, find vulnerabilities in it, generate patches, and apply those fixes to the network, all without human intervention. The top team could win $2 million, with $1 million for second place and $750,000 for third. The finals are slated for 2016. 

Meanwhile, the agency also officially announced Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS), a $70 million DARPA initiative to better understand the root causes of brain diseases. DARPA says it plans “to pursue advances in neuroscience and neurotechnology that could lead to new clinical understanding of how neuropsychological illnesses manifest in the brain and to advanced therapies to reduce the burden and severity of illness in afflicted troops and veterans.” 

DARPA’s neuroscience project is part of President Obama’s initiative to better understand the brain,announced earlier this year. This effort starts with the basic science: drawing up a better understanding of how serious brain illnesses affect the brain across its many regions. It’s one of the big questions about the brain neuroscientists have been investigating for years; hopefully the money and muscle of DARPA can help to push research at a faster pace.