Crowdsourcing: Engaging communities in food and feed risk

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ADAS is exploring the risks and opportunities of using crowdsourcing for the European Food Safety Authority, established to be a source of scientific advice and communication on risks associated with the food chain. Here we outline the project aims and update on two new challenges being presented to a network of global solvers.

Crowdsourcing: Engaging communities in food and feed risk

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) launched a procurement in 2015 (OC/EFSA/AMU/2015/03: Crowdsourcing: engaging communities effectively in food and feed risk assessment) to explore the risks and opportunities in applying crowdsourcing and citizen science as an innovative way to collect and process data and increase the openness of EFSA.

The two year project that started in April 2016 was awarded to a team led by ADAS, with support from crowdsourcing experts InnoCentive, a leading crowdsourcing platform in the USA.

About EFSA

EFSA is a European agency funded by the European Union that operates independently of the European legislative and executive institutions (Commission, Council, Parliament) and EU Member States. It was set up in 2002 following a series of food crises in the late 1990s to be a source of scientific advice and communication on risks associated with the food chain. EFSA’s core responsibilities are the delivery and communication of high-quality scientific advice to help inform decisions of policy makers about food-related risks, and the evaluation of food and feed products that require a safety assessment before they can be used on the EU market.

EFSA operates in a world of rapid change and to ensure that it can continue to fulfil its mission while addressing the challenges and opportunities that the agency will encounter, EFSA has formulated a strategy that is guiding the agency up to 2020 (EFSA Strategy 2020 - Trusted science for safe food). In support of this strategy, EFSA is exploring innovative ways of increasing risk assessment capacity without compromising quality, such as via crowdsourcing and cognitive computing (i.e. self-learning systems that use data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing to mimic the way the human brain works).

About the project

The project is exploring the risks and opportunities in applying crowdsourcing (including competitive challenge) as an innovative way to collect and process data and increase the openness of EFSA.

So what is crowdsourcing? - In the scientific context, crowdsourcing is the act of a company or institution engaging the public in research, creating opportunities for people to provide contributions on a specific task on a voluntary basis or via competitive challenge (usually with a monetary award). This can take the form of a collaborative task, but is also often undertaken by sole individuals. By making a problem or task open to all, crowdsourcing potentially provides a mean of generating more ideas, data, information, tools or validation than can be achieved using established channels.

Crowdsourcing could have several benefits that make it very attractive for organisations to explore and utilise. If used effectively, it can:

  • Engage large public ‘crowds’ in labour and data intensive research in a cost and time efficient manner;
  • Provide access to skills and knowledge from other disciplines and societal sectors, resulting in a rich and diverse knowledge input;
  • Cultivate enthusiasm and support for science;
  • Educate and sensitise the public; and
  • Increase transparency and trust.

As part of the project, two challenges are being run through the InnoCentive platform, conducted via ADAS on behalf of EFSA, to explore the opportunities of accessing a global talent source to solve some of science’s most complex problems.

Challenge No. 1

Just launched on Thursday 16 November 2017.

A new Challenge, hosted on the InnoCentive crowdsourcing platform, and launched by ADAS on behalf of EFSA, seeks to identify the most innovative method to visually depict uncertainty in geospatial data to support decision making in the field by risk managers.  Solvers are asked to demonstrate their proposed method using a provided case study. 

This is an ideation Challenge with a US $5,000 award (~£3,800 GBP or ~€4,250 EUR). The closing date for all submissions will be 2 January 2018.

Interested in finding out more or submitting a solution?

[click here]


Challenge No. 2

A second Challenge is due to launch in December 2017 and will seek an algorithm to automate the data extraction step in scientific literature reviews. More information will be published upon launch.

For more information on any of the above, or to understand more about the risks and opportunities of crowdsourcing for your business, please contact

About the author                      

Charles Ffoulkes is a Senior Consultant in the Sustainable Food and Farming Team at ADAS. He works across the agri-food sector with public sector organisations, businesses and supply chains, addressing key issues such as climate change, sustainability and risk management, enabling organisations to build resilience and capitalise on new opportunities (e.g. through citizen science and crowdsourcing).


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