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Informational Only

This challenge is no longer accepting new submissions.

Great Lakes Observing System Data Challenge

Use technology, open data and innovation to solve Great Lakes problems.

Department of Commerce - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Total Cash Prizes Offered: $13,000
Type of Challenge: Software and apps
Partner Agencies | Non-federal: Great Lakes Observing System, Integrated Ocean Observing System, LimnoTech, Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research, Aqua Hacking 2017 United for Lake Erie, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, RPS ASA, Large Lakes Observatory at the University of Minnesota Duluth, Cleveland Water Alliance
Submission Start: 07/15/2016 03:00 PM ET
Submission End: 08/15/2016 03:00 PM ET


[embed][/embed] THE PROBLEM Register for the GLOS Data Challenge at by July 29, 2016, and receive some GLOS swag.  The Great Lakes contains 18 percent of the world’s supply of fresh surface water and 84 percent of the fresh surface water in North America; more than 40 million people rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water. The Great Lakes are a valuable asset, attracting people and businesses. They directly support 1.5 million U.S. jobs and $62 billion in U.S. wages. While progress is being made in restoring the Great Lakes, climate change, water quality concerns and invasive species still threaten the Great Lakes ecosystem.
  • Climate change is expected to raise the Great Lakes water temperature, lower lake levels, drive more frequent, large storm events and reduce winter ice cover. These impacts will change the way people and wildlife inhabit and use the natural resources of the Great Lakes Basin.
  • Great Lakes water quality is compromised by aqricultural and urban runoff, harmful algal blooms, aging water infrastructure, and oil and hazardous material spills. Water quality impairments close beaches, degrade habitats, threaten public drinking water supplies and restrict recreational opportunities.
  • Invasive species compromise the integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem. They disrupt the food web, leading to declines in the commercial and sport fishery. They impact municipal, recreational and industrial water users by clogging intake pipes and reducing recreational opportunities.
  • Data Quality Evaluation. With advancements in technology innovation, observing systems are becoming increasingly ubiquitous and monitoring and observing data are now commonly available to stakeholders through websites and data portals.  However, one of the big challenges with such wide access to data today is that the quality of the data provided to data consumers is often unknown.  Even in situations where quality information is provided by the data collector, it is frequently overlooked by the data consumer because it is often difficult to access and interpret.  In turn, data consumers are consuming data of an unknown quality which can have large impacts on their data analysis and derived data products, which can have further impacts on subsequent resource management decisions.
    • (For this challenge, participants should use open data from the GLOS data portal ( to develop new tools to quantify and/or illustrate, on-the-fly, the quality of the data available. Ideally this solution would look at large volumes of data and automatically determine the quality of the data when it is selected/requested by a data consumer. A solution that provided some quantitative measurement of data uncertainty would certainly receive top honors. 
    • Winning solutions will enable data consumers in the Great Lakes region to assess the quality and uncertainty of the data they are utilizing in their data analysis and subsequent resource management decisions.)
We look to harness the power of information technology to provide solutions to these problems and take advantage of the economic opportunities inherent in our shared abundant water resource. THE CHALLENGE Challenge participants should use open data to develop new data tools that give communities, recreational users and natural resource managers new means to improve the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem or to provide better access to ecosystem services within the Basin. Create an app, mash-up or visualization that uncovers trends, reveals patterns, or shows how ecosystem services could be more efficiently utilized and can persuade people to take action. Enter the GLOS Data Challenge to make a difference in the world – and to earn cash prizes. Winning solutions will enable government, industry, business, non-profit and recreational sectors in the Great Lakes region to address problems or build on opportunities at a personal, community or Great Lakes region level. Be creative with this, the sky’s the limit for your solution. Winners will have their app/visualization featured on and will receive a cash prize. More details are available at


Best in Innovation
Cash Prize Amount: $5,000

Best in Water Quality
Cash Prize Amount: $2,000

Best in Climate Change
Cash Prize Amount: $2,000

Best in Invasive Species
Cash Prize Amount: $2,000

Best in Data Quality Assurance
Cash Prize Amount: $2,000


  • The data used to develop a solution, tool, or visualization for this challenge must include at least one open dataset from the Great Lakes Observing System (
  • While your chosen datasets could be directly related to Great Lakes, we are interested in seeing what you can create from cross-sector, cross-departmental data (e.g., geographic location, socio-economic data, demographic populations, personal inputs, etc.).
  • We’re looking for more complex solutions that offer particularly new and creative approaches to supporting individuals and populations in fully taking advantage of or improving the natural resources of Great Lakes by incorporating multiple data points and open datasets.
  • All solutions should ensure the confidentiality of individuals.
  • Applicants must agree to the Terms and Conditions.
Any data used should be openly available and thus conforming to information governance best practice.  

Judging Criteria

Creativity & Innovation
Percentage: 20
Uniqueness and innovation in approach to fulfilling the mandatory requirements; the variety and value of additional features. Concept must be original, fill a gap or solve a problem in a manner that is not already available.

Evidence Base & Effectiveness
Percentage: 20
Help solve the identified Great Lakes problem or leverage of environmental services (recreation, food production, drinking water, transportation, etc.) provided by the Great Lakes in an innovative way. Concept must be anchored in science-based rationale.

Value to the Great Lakes
Percentage: 20
Concept must add value to the Great Lakes; increases potential for improving the Great Lakes and their many uses: includes the potential impact on critical needs including climate change adaptation, water quality and invasive species; and facilitates partnerships between public and private sectors and individuals.

Percentage: 20
Design elements attract, engage and influence actions of the public and private sectors and individuals, and address their needs. Easy to navigate.

Functional Product
Percentage: 20
Demonstrable product with functionality as set forth in product description.

How To Enter

Step 1: Register now for the data challenge on the Great Lakes Observing System website ( Step 2: By August 15, 2016, 3:00 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, submit the following items to through
  • Written description of project (maximum 1,000 words). In your description, you must provide a description of the user needs that you are meeting with your project, project objectives and a description of the data sources used. Written in English, the project description should tell the story of project and walks through “how to demo” your product. The document must describe how your project provides meaningful insight, including potential actions and/or discoveries.
  • Access to and testing instructions for your submission. This can be appended to your project description and does not count toward the 1,000 word maximum.
  • Link to a YouTube video demo of the product (maximum of 5 minutes in length). If authentication is required to access the video, please provide this in your submission. We will not accept any submission without a link.