Last week the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memorandum on the use of prizes and challenges by government agencies (H/T Science Careers blog). This is consistent with the President’s Strategy for American Innovation released last September
“The Federal government should take advantage of the expertise and insight of people both inside and outside the Federal government, use high-risk, high-reward policy tools such as prizes and challenges to solve tough problems”
and the Open Government Directive from December
“Within 90 days, the Deputy Director for Management at OMB will issue, through separate guidance or as part of any planned comprehensive management guidance, a framework for how agencies can use challenges, prizes, and other incentive-backed strategies to find innovative or cost-effective solutions to improving open government.”
The emphasis in this memo is on guidance. It leaves it up to the agencies to determine what kinds of prizes they should use, and for what purposes – at least within the broad outlines described in the memo. The bulk of the memo is about the various kinds of legal issues that an agency will have to review to make sure the challenges or prizes don’t run afoul of federal law. But an OMB memo is an important go-ahead symbol for agencies to move forward on government-wide initiatives. If you have suggestions for prizes, see if the Open Government page for the particular agency is ready to take your suggestion. It should be.