CDCOLOGY: A Microtasking Project


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention built and piloted a web-based crowdsourcing platform that cultivates student engagement with CDC. Students become “CDCOLOGISTs” and learn about the importance of public health through the completion of short challenges posted by CDC staff. The platform, the first of it’s kind in HHS, became known as CDCOLOGY. By allowing fresh, creative solutions to influence CDC’s programs and providing personalized educational feedback, CDCOLOGY provides for a unique student-staff interaction. Following Ignite, received $10,000 and dedicated time from their home office to work on the next phase of their efforts.

CDCOLOGY™: Watch the 5 minute project presentation and pitch.

Project Summary

The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health estimates that 250,000 more public health workers will be needed by 2020. A study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research indicated that participatory health initiatives are becoming a part of the public health ecosystem.

CDCOLOGY™ is a mechanism for CDCOLOGY™ Faculty (employees) to post unclassified, two-minute to seven-hour long microtask challenges that can be solved by university students. Tasks span multiple fields and skill sets, including: preparedness, lab sciences, graphic design, policy, research, and data analysis. There is no burdensome application process or eligibility requirements as all students with .edu email addresses are welcome to participate.

The pilot was launched on December 4, 2012. Just six days after launch, the site had drawn 268 participants with another 443 awaiting the second round of invitations to register. As of February 01, 2014, the site had drawn 1,344 participants with at least 75 of those participants being CDC staff engaged in the project.

CDC benefited from the CDCOLOGY™ pilot by encouraging employees to rethink project management, reduce administrative burden, and provide collaboration for public health solutions.

Universities benefit during the pilot though engagement with CDC and by offering their students an out-of-classroom opportunity that has real social impact. During the Ignite pilot, thousands of students for the first time were able to engage the scientists and analysts at CDC virtually, completing small tasks which produce meaningful work for national and international public health. Faculty and staff have indicated possible incorporation of CDCOLOGY™ into syllabi as a course component or extra credit assignment.

Initial findings of the pilot, having accessed over 75 CDC staff and over 1300 university students, has  suggest increase in the number of interdisciplinary undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate students interested in public health professions.

This Ignite team received positive feedback from programs about both student and faculty interest, and the team is looking forward to exploring other potential uses for the pilot both within and outside the classroom. One specific future enhancement and use of the website within CDC could be to capture real-time information during disasters to drive behavior changes. For example, why not ask students in affected areas to provide a list of local college rumors about why students are reluctant to get novel H1N1 vaccine for free? The results of challenges like these and others can help to inform our program strategies and tactics attempting to drive the behavior changes for which CDC aspires. This same concept can be applied to CDC’s ability to provide technical assistance to its state and local grantees, all through the agency’s ability to access the public and in many cases, the end users for our programs.

Team Photo

Team Members

Diana Yassanye (Project Lead), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Chelsea Cipriano, Department of Health and Human Services
James Rajotte, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Jacinta Smith, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Project Lead’s Approving Supervisor:
Serena Vinter, Public Health Analyst, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


HHS Ignite

HHS Ignite is the IDEA Lab’s incubator for Department staff with ideas on how to modernize government. Selected teams are introduced to startup methodologies for problem identification and project implementation. In the entrepreneurial spirit, Ignite projects are iterative, their impacts measurable, and their solutions scalable. This is one of 13 projects that participated in the beta year of Ignite which ran from June 2013 to February 2014.

Status update: 3 Months Later

As part of Ignite’s approach to evaluating it’s effectiveness, each Ignite team is asked to provide information on their project status three months following their pitch. The CDCOLOGY™ team received $10,000 and dedicated time from their home office to work on the next phase of their efforts.


Additional Information

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