nQuire – Citizen Inquiry

I lead a project with The Open University and the BBC to develop nQuire, a web platform for large-scale public investigations into science, community and wellbeing. This extends our research into ‘citizen inquiry’ – a fusion of citizen science and inquiry learning.

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 platform to explore citizen inquiry.

The nQuire site supports organisations, communities and members of the public to create and run online studies to explore environment, community and personality. This includes multimedia surveys, investigations of data from mobile sensors, secure handling of personal data, and ways for participants to view results. The site is designed to run large studies linked to TV or radio programmes as well as smaller community investigations.

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.