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Is crowdsourcing dumbing down research?

Is crowdsourcing dumbing down research?

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Published by Crowdsourcing.org

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Published by: Crowdsourcing.org on Jul 30, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Is crowdsourcing dumbing down research?
Posted by Alastair Dunning Friday 29 July 2011 10.34 BST
Crowdsourcing funding and expertise is becoming a widespread practice inacademia. But does it affect the quality of outcomes?Crowdsourcing for research: Researchers are seeing the advantages in developingmeaningful relationships with businesses, public sector partners and communitygroups. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty ImagesWhether your favourite tipple is a lanny or a craitur might depend on whetheryou're a wine or a whiskey drinker, and even where in Scotland you live.Last month an innovative new project funded by JISC asked people to contribute toa unique dictionary of  Scottish words and place-names.The twist? Contributors are using tools of the web: posting messages ona Facebook page,tweeting the project team and contributing to an online discussion.It's the latest in a series of community projects that are asking the general public tocontribute their knowledge and expertise toresearch through interactive web technology,not simply because they can or because it's trendy, but becausecrowdsourcing is now, by default, digital. The idea behind this particular project is
to focus firmly on how people are speaking now rather than the more traditionalapproach of largely gathering evidence from written material
so it makes perfectsense to go out to where people are, already tweeting, posting and updating theirFacebook pages.Two major factors have contributed to the growth of such projects. Web 2.0technologies have developed to offer far more interactivity in the past few years
 whether it's adding comments to a page, video to YouTube or simply uploadingphotos to a central archive, content publishers now have more flexibility than everbefore for interacting with a wide range of users. The British Library sound mapproject asks people to contribute audio recordings that are published on theirwebpages; JISC'sStrandlines project is assembling documents that articulate the history of one of London's most famous streets, The Strand. As digital cameras,video devices and supporting software become more widespread, it's possible tocollate a range of media from the crowd when this might be very expensive to doindependently.But it's not just about multimedia
theOld Weather project asks the public to transcribe Royal Navy log books from the early 20th century, which includevaluable meteorological data recorded by ships' crew members. Such an approachhas a triple benefit
naval enthusiasts have whole new stories about Britishseafaring; military and other historians have fresh evidence and scientists haveaccess to vital meteorological information to help them understand long-termpatterns in climate change.Researchers are seeing the advantages in developing meaningful relationships withbusinesses, public sector partners and community groups just as the universitiesthey work for are actively developing their external engagement missions. Theseoutside groups are sources of expertise, funding and advice but can also takeresearch to wider audiences. Getting people involved means these users evolve tobecome both consumers and creators of digital data.But when does 'crowdsourcing' work well? First, if you're looking for expertisefrom a range of sources then the potential for ideas is massive. BMW received4000 ideas within seven days of setting up itsVirtual Innovation Agency which

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