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CFP: Crowdsourcing as a coordinative mechanism in pandemic response: lessons from Covid-19

Guest Editors

Erica Mazzola
Università degli Studi di Palermo,

Mariangela Piazza
Università degli Studi di Palermo,

Giovanni Perrone
Università degli Studi di Palermo,

David Antons
RWTH Aachen University,

Torsten-Oliver Salge
RWTH Aachen University,

Ghita D. Lauritzen
University of Copenhagen,

Johann Nils Foege
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster,


The spread of the Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and the related disease COVID-19, identified in China in December 2019, has rapidly reached the epidemiological criteria for it to be declared a pandemic (Remuzzi and Remuzzi, 2020). As it emerges from the World Health Organization report, on April 15th 2020, COVID-19 has infected more than 1.9 million people in around 200 countries. To contain the pandemic, China has suggested quarantine, social distancing, and isolation of infected people (Anderson et al., 2020). Many of the affected Countries have followed this Chinese model implementing extraordinary lockdown measures without precedence (Remuzzi and Remuzzi, 2020). Governments in countries that face major outbreaks have limited the movement of individuals, forbidden any kind of gathering in public spaces, imposed the closing of schools, recreational centers and shops, except for those selling essentials (e.g., supermarkets and pharmacies), and blocked the production of non-strategic and non-essential products (Lazzerini and Putoto, 2020). Lockdown measures have also created new social, economic, organizational, and managerial challenges to which people and companies were not prepared (Gates, 2020). The COVID-19 pandemic thus not only poses health-related questions and challenges, but it also calls for a paradigm shift in peoples’ lives, social and working relationships, and in the way of doing business. For example, scientists and research laboratories have to find new ways for collaborating and coordinate their researches, both inside and outside of their labs, sharing virologic, clinical, and epidemiological data to improve their R&D efforts and respond rapidly to the growing need of innovation, such as new treatments and vaccines (Gates, 2020). Moreover, several businesses have already collapsed and many more are likely to follow in the light of the economic recession that is expected to shrink the global economy by 3% this year (The Guardian, 2020). Thus, large corporations and small firms alike have to develop novel solutions to perform their activities, restructure their operations, recognize new patterns for sustaining their supply chain, and identify R&D opportunities to keep their business alive (Harvard Business Review, 2020). Furthermore, new social problems are likely to emerge while existing ones will exacerbate, such as unemployment and criminality. Thus, if not properly addressed through ad-hoc policies, the COVID-19 pandemic may also increase social inequality, exclusion, discrimination, and global unemployment in the medium and long term (United Nations, 2020).

This challenging scenario suddenly set by the COVID-19 pandemic shows that ordinary processes for organizing are not sufficient and more efforts in coordinating resources and people are required. The world needs to find innovative and digital ways to organize and coordinate an adequate response to this global pandemic and response plans for future ones. Given its often digital nature and platform structure that reaches a global audience of contributors, crowdsourcing is among the most promising remedies to counteract sociological and medical issues. Crowdsourcing refers to the activity of broadcasting a task to a large and undefined crowd rather than to a designated organization, team, or individual (Jeppesen and Lakhani, 2010). By leveraging the disruptive power of the crowd, crowdsourcing has proven an effective mechanism for coordinating a crowd of people in solving problems, generating new knowledge, and creating innovation (Poetz et al., 2012). For example, implementing crowdsourcing in the medical and pharmaceutical R&D context has allowed scientists and researchers to coordinate the collection and analyses of large-scale data to develop rapid research responses to crises such as disease outbreaks (e.g. Callaghan, 2015; Christensen and Karlsson, 2019). Moreover, crowdsourcing is widely recognized as an alternative coordinative mechanism for companies that aim at accessing external knowledge and resources to fulfill their needs more quickly (Pollok et al., 2019). For example, engaging in crowdsourcing activities allows companies to establish working relationships with external providers that possess specific know-how, improve new product development processes, and reconfigure their supply chain more efficiently (Zhu et al., 2017). Crowdsourcing also enables the organizer/seeker to access “marginal” solvers that possess fairly unrelated knowledge (Afuah and Tucci, 2012). Crowdsourcing is, thus, not only a very fast response but it also provides access to solutions coming from distant knowledge domains. Oftentimes, adequate solutions exist elsewhere and we just don’t know about them. Crowdsourcing can help to connect the right questions (from domain A) to the already existing solutions (from domain B). Recently, successful crowdsourcing for social innovation initiatives have also spread, demonstrating the potential of crowdsourcing in helping governments to get and coordinate resources for solving societal problems as well as enabling non-profit organizations to find new solutions for addressing social issues (e.g., Randhawa et al., 2019).

Several initiatives reveal that people and organizations have already started to look into crowdsourcing to deal with COVID-19 pandemic issues. For example, the World Health Organization is sourcing knowledge from hospitals worldwide asking doctors to coordinate the development of a global database by submitting anonymous records of COVID-19 patients listing their prescribed drugs, the procedures carried out, and the related outcomes (The Economist, 2020). Likewise, NASA is calling for ideas from its internal crowdsourcing platform NASA@WORK to leverage its expertise and capabilities to help with the COVID-19 related challenges (NASA, 2020) and Bright View Technologies, a company producing optical products, which is converting its business by tailoring the production of Personal Protective Equipment is using crowdsourcing to attract new personnel and access ad-hoc competencies (BusinessWire, 2020). Many other crowdsourcing platforms, such as InnoCentive, Ennomotive and Hyve, are filling up with several coronavirus-related contests soliciting innovations from solution providers that can join the challenge while being home and quarantined waiting to get back to work. Individual developers have created mobile and web applications, such as Ufirst or Immuno, that collect real-time data sourced from users to monitor movements of people affected by COVID-19, to check the length of queues in supermarkets, and to supervise the flows of people using public transportation (Wired, 2020). Finally, people all over the world have launched numerous crowdsourcing initiatives to fight COVID-19 issues. For example, the initiative “3D Printer Crowdsourcing for COVID-19” is a public open call that coordinate professionals and hobbyists across countries for collaborating around producing medical supplies with 3D printers and making them freely available to hospitals and healthcare organizations (3D Printer Crowdsourcing for COVID-19, 2020). Considering the various initiatives as described above, crowdsourcing has already demonstrated its potential as a mechanism for coordinating the wisdom of the crowd in tackling the new social, economic, organizational, and managerial challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the restrictive measures adopted by governments to tackle it.

Special Issue’s scope, including potential themes to be addressed in the Special Issue

Considering the critical scenario put forward by the COVID-19 pandemic and the significant role that crowdsourcing may play as a coordinative mechanism for dealing with these challenges, we propose to organize a special issue on this topic. This special issue aims to stimulate research and critically reflects on the opportunities as well as the challenges crowdsourcing offers from a social and managerial perspective with regard to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic as well as building preparedness and resilience for the future outbreaks. We welcome empirical contributions that use both quantitative and qualitative research methods as well as conceptual contributions. Contributions may address, but are not limited to, the topics listed in the following:

Crowdsourcing contests, innovation platforms and their role in the outbreak of a pandemic

  • How crowdsourcing contests can be appropriately leveraged as a mechanism for coordinating the wisdom of the crowd during a pandemic? How effective are crowdsourcing contests for dealing with medical and epidemiological challenges during a pandemic?
  • How are innovation platforms effective for conducting research and developing activities that can fight a pandemic?
  • How is the management of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) regulated in pandemic-related contests to enable rapid knowledge sharing? How can IPRs be managed to enable both knowledge sharing and value appropriation during the pandemic?
  • What role do innovation platforms play in matching demands and solutions relating to pandemic issues? Are these digital labor markets used more during the pandemic?
  • How do intrinsic and extrinsic motivations guide potential solution providers that participate in coronavirus-related contests? (How) has solvers’ participation in corona-related contests changed during the pandemic compared to other challenges?

Impact of crowdsourcing on economic and social challenges entailed by a pandemic

  • How does crowdsourcing affect peoples’ perception of the quality of life in different phases of the pandemic spread? E.g. How does crowdsourcing can be leveraged for tackling schooling issues? How does crowdsourcing can offer support for managing elderly care centers?
  • What new opportunities and challenges does crowdsourcing pose with regard to social inequalities that arise from a pandemic?
  • How can crowdsourcing be used to support voluntary work, increase awareness, cultivate new volunteers, and help charitable associations during a pandemic?
  • How can crowdsourcing be used to create work opportunities and new types of jobs to fight the crisis related to a pandemic?
  • How can crowdsourcing support people during isolation? How can crowdsourcing help people in keeping a social distance during the spread of pandemics (in new social ways)?
  • How can crowdsourcing support governments in the implementation of new policies and the design and control of restrictive measures during a pandemic?

Crowdsourcing as a way to manage pandemic data

  • How can crowdsourcing be used to collect, analyze, and share pandemic data (e.g. data on infections, deaths and intensive care bed capacities) in a responsible manner?
  • What are the key challenges in collecting and managing sensitive pandemic data? How should privacy be managed?
  • How can pandemic data sourced from the crowd improve disease surveillance and pandemic preparedness? What new challenges and opportunities does this kind of surveillance pose?

Crowdsourcing as a way for companies to adapt their business models, shape their strategic networks and reconvert their business during pandemics

  • How can companies leverage crowdsourcing to acquire knowledge and ad-hoc competencies for reconverting their business and retooling their productions as a response to pandemics?
  • How does crowdsourcing allow companies to shape their strategic networks to coordinate the cooperation with partners during a pandemic?
  • How does crowdsourcing support companies in implementing new business model solutions, such as e-business, during the spread of a pandemic? How powerful is crowdsourcing for pursuing business model adaptation strategies in response to pandemics?
  • How can crowdsourcing support companies in managing their supply chains to respond to pandemic-related issues? E.g. How effective is crowdsourcing for guaranteeing companies supply chain continuity in response to pandemics? How does crowdsourcing allow companies to build or reconfigure their supply chain networks during the pandemic?

Crowdsourcing as a way to solve meta-challenges during a pandemic

  • How can crowdsourcing be used for identifying and orchestrate the countless local challenges in developing countries during a pandemic?
  • How can crowdsourcing be effective in linking different geographies and facilitate regional arbitrage by connecting more and less affected regions and moving patients and/or treatment capacities?
  • How can crowdsourcing support governments in aligning policies and restrictive measures among different countries during a pandemic?

The future challenges of crowdsourcing posed by the pandemic

  • How does crowdsourcing should improve its coordinative mechanisms and governance models for facilitating the global flow of knowledge in future pandemics?
  • How do open submissions, open review, open data and artificial intelligence can increase the speed and effectiveness of crowdsourcing for future pandemics?

Notes for Prospective Authors

Submitted papers should not have been previously published nor be currently under consideration for publication elsewhere. Conference papers may only be submitted if the paper has been completely re-written and if appropriate written permissions have been obtained from any copyright holders of the original paper. Manuscripts should be submitted through the publisher’s online system. Submissions will be reviewed according to the journal’s rigorous standards and procedures through a double-blind peer review by at least two qualified reviewers.

Submission Process

Please prepare the manuscript according to IEEE-TEM’s guidelines ( and submit to the journal’s Manuscript Central site ( Please upload the paper on the IEEE TEM Editorial Manager clearly indicating in the cover letter that the submission is for the IEEE TEM Special Issue on Crowdsourcing as a coordinative mechanism in pandemic response: lessons from Covid-19.


Papers submitted by December 31 2022

Guest Editor Bios

Erica Mazzola is an assistant professor of management engineering at the Engineering Department of the University of Palermo. Her main research interests are open innovation, crowdsourcing and corporate venture capital. In addition, her interests include research on strategic alliances and inter-firm networking strategies. Her work has been published among others in the Journal of Product Innovation Management, British Journal of Management and International Journal of Production Economics.

Giovanni Perrone is full professor of management engineering at the Department of Engineering of the University of Palermo. His research is mainly focused on open innovation, inter-firm relationships, and entrepreneurship. His research has been published in leading innovation and operation management journals including, among others, Research Policy, British Journal of Management, International Journal of Production Economics. He is currently department head and president of the Italian Association of Business and Management Engineering (Associazione italiana di Ingegneria Gestionale – AiIG).

Mariangela Piazza is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Engineering of the University of Palermo. Her main research interests lie in the field of innovation management and focus on open innovation and crowdsourcing. Her studies on these issues have been published in journals, as Journal of Product Innovation Management and British Journal of Management. Moreover, her research interests also include research on corporate venture capital investments, disruptive innovation, and inter-firm networking strategies.

David Antons David Antons is a professor and co-director of the Institute for Technology and Innovation Management (TIM) in the TIME Research Area at RWTH Aachen University, Germany. He received his PhD from the same university working in close cooperation with the RWTH Psychological Institute. His research interests include knowledge sharing across organizational, spatial, and disciplinary boundaries; psychological influences on decision-making; individual learning from feedback; and text mining approaches. Recent contributions have been published in journals such as Academy of Management Review, Journal of Management, Academy of Management Perspectives, Research Policy, Journal of Service Research, and Journal of Product Innovation Management.

Torsten-Oliver Salge, is professor of management and co-director of the Institute for Technology and Innovation Management in the TIME Research Area at RWTH Aachen University. He is also fellow at Cambridge Digital Innovation, University of Cambridge, where he received his MPhil and PhD. His current research focuses on processes of searching, sharing, sensemaking, and learning as they unfold across levels of analysis. His work has been published among others in the Academy of Management Review, the Journal of Applied Psychology, the Journal of Management, the Journal of Service Research, MIS Quarterly, Research Policy and the Journal of Product Innovation Management.

Ghita Dragsdahl Lauritzen is assistant professor at the University of Copenhagen, Department of Food and Resource Economics. Prior to this, she has been Assistant Professor at Copenhagen Business School, MPP, Postdoc at University of Cambridge and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) where she received her PhD degree. She also has experience as consultant within academic, commercial, and public environments. Her research focuses on innovation collaboration across boundaries with a particular interest in paradoxes. She has published on these topics in books and articles in journals, such as Research Policy, Systems Research and Behavioral Science, and the Journal of Product Innovation Management.

Johann Nils Foege, is an assistant professor at the University of Muenster, Germany. He received his doctoral degree from RWTH Aachen University, Germany and has held a position as a visiting scholar at the Centre for Technology Management at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. His main research interest includes innovation and strategic management. He has published in journals such as Research Policy, Journal of Product Innovation Management, and Long Range Planning.


3D Printer Crowdsourcing for COVID-19 (2020). Global 3D Printer & Talent Public Crowdsourcing for COVID-19. Available at:

Afuah, A., and Tucci, C. L. (2012). Crowdsourcing as a solution to distant search. Academy of Management review, 37(3), 355-375.

Anderson, R. M., Heesterbeek, H., Klinkenberg, D., & Hollingsworth, T. D. (2020). How will country-based mitigation measures influence the course of the COVID-19 epidemic?. The Lancet, 395(10228), 931-934.

BusinessWire (2020). Bright View Technologies Creates Face Shields for COVID-19 Healthcare First Responders. Available at:

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Christensen, I., & Karlsson, C. (2019). Open innovation and the effects of crowdsourcing in a pharma ecosystem. Journal of Innovation & Knowledge, 4(4), 240-247.

Gates, B. (2020). Responding to Covid-19—a once-in-a-century pandemic?. New England Journal of Medicine. Available at:

Harvard Business Review (2020). A 5-Day Plan to Keep Your Company Afloat. Available at:

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Lazzerini, M., & Putoto, G. (2020). COVID-19 in Italy: momentous decisions and many uncertainties. The Lancet Global Health. Available at:

NASA (2020). NASA Taps Workforce for Innovative Ideas for Coronavirus Response Efforts. Available at:

Poetz, M. K., & Schreier, M. (2012). The value of crowdsourcing: can users really compete with professionals in generating new product ideas?. Journal of product innovation management, 29(2), 245-256.

Pollok, P., Lüttgens, D., & Piller, F. T. (2019). How firms develop capabilities for crowdsourcing to increase open innovation performance: The interplay between organizational roles and knowledge processes. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 36(4), 412-441.

Randhawa, K., Wilden, R., & West, J. (2019). Crowdsourcing without profit: the role of the seeker in open social innovation. R&d Management, 49(3), 298-317.

Remuzzi, A., & Remuzzi, G. (2020). COVID-19 and Italy: what next?. The Lancet. Available at:

The Economist (2020b). Crowdsourcing to fight covid-19. Available at:

The Guardian (2020). IMF: Global economy faces worst recession since the Great Depression – as it happened. Available at:

United Nations (2020). Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19. Available at:

Wired, (2020). Abbiamo analizzato tutte le app che si possono già usare per il contact tracing del coronavirus. Available at:

Zhu, J. J., Li, S. Y., & Andrews, M. (2017). Ideator expertise and cocreator inputs in crowdsourcing‐based new product development. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 34(5), 598-616.

IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management is journal of the Technology and Engineering Management Society of IEEE, published quarterly since 1954. It is dedicated to the publication of peer-reviewed original contributions, by researchers and practitioners, regarding the theory and practice of engineering, technology, and innovation management.

Editor in Chief

Tugrul U Daim, PhD PICMET Fellow
Professor and Director
Technology Management Doctoral Program
Department of Engineering and Technology Management
Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science
Portland State University, Portland OR
United States

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