Have you ever considered collaborating with the “crowd”? On the Internet, we can all become creators and contributors, and academia can benefit from engaging the public, through crowdsourcing projects. This includes citizen science projects where individuals take part in the research in some way, and crowdfunding where you appeal for funding from private individuals. A successfully crowdfunded pilot project could be good evidence to put forward in a grant application to a larger funder, proving interest and public engagement in a project from the very beginning. By calling on the expertise, resources or even cash of members of the public, you are engaging their investment in a very real way.
Here at Piirus, we’re exploring the theme. Next week we will feature a post from guest blogger Dr Alke Gröppel-Wegener, who will share what she learned from putting together her first crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Of course, other crowdfunding sites are available, and I asked Alke what she thought about the recently launched site Patreon, a new form of crowdfunding site that attempts to side-step the constant need to apply for grants and to run particular project campaigns, by offering a kind of longer term sponsorship opportunity. Her response was:
Definitely something to be considered if you are freelance, but I think within formal education it is a bit difficult, because I wonder whether it would make you more audience focused than you maybe should be as an educator…
You can read more from Dr Alke Gröppel-Wegener on the Piirus blog soon!
This response put me in mind of some previously published good advice from the library sector, when considering crowdsourcing, which is to always bear in mind who your crowd is. Here is a summary of Rose Holley’s tips for crowdsourcing, from D-Lib in 2010:
- Have a clear goal (the thing)
- Make the contribution easy & fun, reliable and quick (the system)
- Know your target group. Acknowledge and reward the contributors. Trust them (the crowd)
- Offer interesting and new content, in large volume (the content)
The crowd might have their own goals to achieve: can you help them to achieve their goals, whilst they help you to achieve yours? Their goals could include:
- passing the time in a fun way (the now closed Games with a Purpose blog explored this)
- getting a “feel good” buzz from helping others
- pursuing an interest in science: learning about the subject of your research
- contributing their knowledge to the world
It’s my personal view that crowdsourcing is something that altmetrics could help you with at the beginning stages: getting to know your potential crowd and their interest in your previously published work.
If you want to explore more about crowdsourcing, then there are some great examples of crowdsourced projects at the Citizen Science Alliance, and University of Oxford’s computing service’s RunCoCo site also offers good advice, highlights from which I summarise as:
- The crowd are collaborators and not users. Cite community members on papers! (Give them credit for their work.)
- People should be contributing to real research. It’s not (all) about outreach.
- Don’t waste people’s time, eg don’t ask people to do things that machines can do just as well.
Have you got any tips on crowdsourcing to share? You can leave a comment below, or tweet them to us using #piirustips.
Image credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg, 2014, [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr