Crowdsourcing & Open Innovation

Frank Nagle, James Dana, Jennifer Hoffman, Steven Randazzo, and Yanuo Zhou. 3/2/2022. Census II of Free and Open Source Software — Application Libraries. The Linux Foundation. Harvard Laboratory for Innovation Science (LISH) and Open Source Security Foundation (OpenSSF). Publisher's VersionAbstract

Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) has become a critical part of the modern economy. There are tens of millions of FOSS projects, many of which are built into software and products we use every day. However, it is difficult to fully understand the health, economic value, and security of FOSS because it is produced in a decentralized and distributed manner. This distributed development approach makes it unclear how much FOSS, and precisely what FOSS projects, are most widely used. This lack of understanding is a critical problem faced by those who want to help enhance the security of FOSS (e.g., companies, governments, individuals), yet do not know what projects to start with. This problem has garnered widespread attention with the Heartbleed and log4shell vulnerabilities that resulted in the susceptibility of hundreds of millions of devices to exploitation.

This report, Census II, is the second investigation into the widespread use of FOSS and aggregates data from over half a million observations of FOSS libraries used in production applications at thousands of companies, which aims to shed light on the most commonly used FOSS packages at the application library level. This effort builds on the Census I report that focused on the lower level critical operating system libraries and utilities, improving our understanding of the FOSS packages that software applications rely on. Such insights will help to identify critical FOSS packages to allow for resource prioritization to address security issues in this widely used software.

The Census II effort utilizes data from partner Software Composition Analysis (SCA) companies including Snyk, the Synopsys Cybersecurity Research Center (CyRC), and FOSSA, which partnered with Harvard to advance the state of open source research. Our goal is to not only identify the most widely used FOSS, but to also provide an example of how the distributed nature of FOSS requires a multi-party effort to fully understand the value and security of the FOSS ecosystem. Only through data-sharing, coordination, and investment will the value of this critical component of the digital economy be preserved for generations to come.

In addition to the detailed results on FOSS usage provided in the report, we identified five high-level findings: 1) the need for a standardized naming schema for software components, 2) the complexities associated with package versions, 3) much of the most widely used FOSS is developed by only a handful of contributors, 4) the increasing importance of individual developer account security, and 5) the persistence of legacy software in the open source space.

Philip Brookins, Dmitry Ryvkin, and Andrew Smyth. 3/8/2021. “Indefinitely repeated contests: An experimental study.” Experimental Economics . Publisher's VersionAbstract
We experimentally explore indefinitely repeated contests. Theory predicts more cooperation, in the form of lower expenditures, in indefinitely repeated contests with a longer expected time horizon. Our data support this prediction, although this result attenuates with contest experience. Theory also predicts more cooperation in indefinitely repeated contests compared to finitely repeated contests of the same expected length, and we find empirical support for this. Finally, theory predicts no difference in cooperation across indefinitely repeated winner-take-all and proportional-prize contests, yet we find evidence of less cooperation in the latter, though only in longer treatments with more contests played. Our paper extends the experimental literature on indefinitely repeated games to contests and, more generally, contributes to an infant empirical literature on behavior in indefinitely repeated games with “large” strategy spaces.
Philip Brookins and Paan Jindapon. 2/20/2021. “Risk preference heterogeneity in group contests.” Journal of Mathematical Economics. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We analyze the first model of a group contest with players that are heterogeneous in their risk preferences. In our model, individuals’ preferences are represented by a utility function exhibiting a generalized form of constant absolute risk aversion, allowing us to consider any combination of risk-averse, risk-neutral, and risk-loving players. We begin by proving equilibrium existence and uniqueness under both linear and convex investment costs. Then, we explore how the sorting of a compatible set of players by their risk attitudes into competing groups affects aggregate investment. With linear costs, a balanced sorting (i.e., minimizing the variance in risk attitudes across groups) always produces an aggregate investment level that is at least as high as an unbalanced sorting (i.e., maximizing the variance in risk attitudes across groups). Under convex costs, however, identifying which sorting is optimal is more nuanced and depends on preference and cost parameters.

Single Cell Trajectory Contest

The Pinello Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital, LISH, and 25+ other single cell labs across the world collaborated to execute the Single Cell Trajectory contest. Single cell trajectory inference methods are essential tools in the analysis of cellular dynamic processes. In the field, there are over 60 methods used for prediction... Read more about Single Cell Trajectory Contest

Karim R. Lakhani, Anne-Laure Fayard, Manos Gkeredakis, and Jin Hyun Paik. 10/5/2020. “OpenIDEO (B)”. Publisher's VersionAbstract
In the midst of 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic was unfolding, OpenIDEO - an online open innovation platform focused on design-driven solutions to social issues - rapidly launched a new challenge to improve access to health information, empower communities to stay safe during the COVID-19 crisis, and inspire global leaders to communicate effectively. OpenIDEO was particularly suited to challenges which required cross-system or sector-wide collaboration due to its focus on social impact and ecosystem design, but its leadership pondered how they could continue to improve virtual collaboration and to share their insights from nearly a decade of running online challenges. Conceived as an exercise of disruptive digital innovation, OpenIDEO successfully created a strong open innovation community, but how could they sustain - or even improve - their support to community members and increase the social impact of their online challenges in the coming years?
Jin Paik, Martin Schöll, Rinat Sergeev, Steven Randazzo, and Karim R. Lakhani. 2/26/2020. “Innovation Contests for High-Tech Procurement.” Research-Technology Management, 63:2, 36-45. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Innovation managers rarely use crowdsourcing as an innovative instrument despite extensive academic and theoretical research. The lack of tools available to compare and measure crowdsourcing, specifically contests, against traditional methods of procuring goods and services is one barrier to adoption. Using ethnographic research to understand how managers solved their problems, we find that the crowdsourcing model produces higher costs in the framing phase but yields savings in the solving phase, whereas traditional procurement is downstream cost-intensive. Two case study examples with the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) and the United States Department of Energy demonstrate a potential total cost savings of 27 percent and 33 percent, respectively, using innovation contests. We provide a comprehensive evaluation framework for crowdsourcing contests developed from a high-tech industry perspective, which are applicable to other industries.

Races vs. Tournaments

Contests are frequently used to raise the workers’ productivity and innovation in business, government, and many other settings.  They can take many different formats or designs, but two seem prevalent:  the race and the tournament. Races set the incentives by rewarding the first person to meet a specified,... Read more about Races vs. Tournaments

Optimal Prize Structure

One of the strongest design parameters for contests is the prize structure, i.e., the number and level of prizes. In developing best practices, we are working to provide guidance to practitioners to optimize the use of prize funds. Optimal selection of prizes is a complex task. For tasks with diminishing returns to effort (the 100th hour of work improves the output less than the 1st hour),... Read more about Optimal Prize Structure