With the 24/7 news cycle, many of us have learned to source and assess articles and updates like professional researchers. Is the information I have in hand accurate or not? Is it the whole story? Do I have all the pieces to make a decision and move forward?
If you are using information to direct or improve the programs and activities of your federal agency, the stakes are even higher. You must be confident that the information you rely upon is accurate and complete.
This is why open-source research is an invaluable asset for insight and can benefit your decision-making.
Expertise and analysis increase the value of open-source research.
Open-source research draws upon publicly available information: websites and blogs, social media, books, periodicals, databases and foreign-language resources. But just having access to the raw research isn’t enough. The value of open-source research is greatly enhanced by the contributions of area experts who curate and add relevance to the research.
We’ve seen many times how teams with language fluency, in-country experience, and deep knowledge of culture, history, politics, and players contribute their interpretive and analytical skills to open-source research.
3 benefits of open-source research
Open-source research is an essential resource for federal agencies, but even more so in times of conflict or crisis.
As an example of the benefits of open-source research, let’s examine how it provided valuable information during the Egyptian revolution of 2011.
#1: Open-source research provides data not readily available elsewhere
The first benefit of open-source research is supplementing information received from traditional sources.
The Egyptian crisis during the Arab Spring of 2011 was called the “social media revolution” for good reason. Area experts followed the uprising play-by-play in Facebook posts, tweets and YouTube videos. This provided a more complete picture beyond previous traditional sources.
Data from open-source research fills in the blanks and provides necessary nuance and context to other research findings, which is especially critical when conflicting reports are clouding a situation.
Besides social media, other sources of open-source research are:
- Websites and blogs
- Trusted experts on the ground—government, academia, NGOs, and private sector contacts
- Local press
- Journals and periodicals
- Research institutions
- Government and NGO databases
- Commercial and financial databases
#2: Open-source research is real-time information
Open-source research keeps up with events as they’re unfolding. Moment by moment, you get live updates from Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms more quickly than reports from traditional media.
You can also see photos and videos from people who are witnessing an event.
We saw this during the Egyptian uprising with up-to-the-minute postings of activities that helped speed up the response and organizing efforts. We also see this in our own country with a more frequent example that plays out during natural disasters as people share photos and live videos of storms in progress as well as post-storm damage.
#3: Open-source research supports, confirms or refutes other forms of intelligence
During the Egyptian crisis, protesters promoted one version of the events on social media while the government shared their version on the state-run television news. This type of dual narrative is not uncommon.
Many of Tesla’s government clients have official intel sources to assess what’s happening around a region. In these cases, open-source research helps them confirm or deny those reports. The comprehensiveness and timeliness of data found by open-source research contributes to an accurate understanding of what’s happening in a geographic region.
The value of open-source research for federal agencies
At Tesla, we have seen federal agencies benefit from having a dedicated team with the experience and expertise to find, curate, and understand open-source research. These open-source researchers deliver relevant and practical data and provide information not readily available from traditional research channels, updates on situations as they’re occurring, and clarification on conflicting narratives.
When you combine this valuable data with expert interpretation and analysis, your agency gains a thorough understanding of complicated issues and events – and can make better, faster decisions.
Are you getting the whole story?
See how our Open-Source Research can keep you better informed.