I lead a project with The Open University and the BBC to develop a web platform for large-scale public experiments in psychology and social science. This extends our research into ‘citizen inquiry’ – a combination of mass participation citizen science and learning to be a scientist through scientific inquiry.
The BBC has experience in running mass-participation studies through Lab UK which was launched in 2009 and ran until 2015, engaging members of the public in investigating aspects of psychology, sociology and health. The Open University has developed the nQuire-it platform to explore citizen inquiry.
During 2018, the existing nQuire-it site will be developed and extended to include support for a new type of ‘mission’ involving surveys and quizzes. Scientists, and members of the public, will be able to create and run online studies to explore attitudes and personality. This will involve providing new ways to enter responses, secure handling of personal data, and ways for participants to see overview results. The work will also involve re-implementing the site to run large studies linked to TV or radio programmes.
Citizen science is growing in importance, as scientists find new ways to involve members of the public in collecting or analysing data – for example through Garden Birdwatch to monitor birds, or Galaxy Zoo to assist astronomers in analysing telescope images. Citizen inquiry focuses on helping people to learn by doing big science – from providing guides on how to visualise and interpret data, to helping people set up their own large-scale studies.