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Crowdsourcing as a Method of Transdisciplinary Research—Tapping the Full Potential of Participants


DOI: 10.1016/j.futures.2014.02.005

Wechsler, Dietmar. “Crowdsourcing as a Method of Transdisciplinary Research—Tapping the Full Potential of Participants.” Futures (2014): 1–9. Web.

p.1: Within the scope of citizen science projects, crowdsourcing has already expanded into scientic application areas. In this, its scientic potential is only partly exhausted, however.

It will be shown that transdisciplinary research is made up in content and structural aspects in such a way that crowdsourcing can fully unfold as a research method through varied participation possibilities, reflective processes and use of contemporary technical possibilities. Furthermore, mutual learning, understanding and the dissemination of knowledge strongly profits from effects that even result automatically in this context.

The scientific application of crowdsourcing represented here makes high demands on project management, but it is expected to turn out as an effective research method precisely in the area of transdisciplinary research. -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014

p.1: the participants make available certain resources and abilities (time, knowledge, computing capacity, data, pattern recognition, etc.), work together on the development of free solutions and offers (open source and open information activities like Linux, openstreetmap, wikipedia, etc.) or take part in open innovation activities (innovation and idea competitions, product tests and developments). -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014

p.2: Citizen science is found in different stages of scientific research [12]. Readiness to learn and tasks like image analysis and pattern recognition are being demanded from the participants in this context. Mostly the participation is limited, however, to the gathering of scientific data, while the evaluation, scientific classication, conclusions and publication are carried out by the scientists who have initiated the project. -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014

p.3: Open source and other crowdsourcing activities also display structural differences to citizen science projects. With the latter, it is distinguished clearly between volunteers and co-ordinating scientists. Therefore they have a hierarchical and, concerning the compiled and analysed scientific contents, closed structure [12]. Many other crowdsourcing initiatives have at decision-making structures, are organised bottom up and are released at many levels for open editing and discussion. Besides, according to [14] the contributions of the community are often accessible immediately and can be attributed directly to individual participants, while, in the eld of citizen science, small single contributions are rather not explicitly shown and a longer time span passes for results and publication. -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014

p.3: The central science principle of transdisciplinary research consists of the integration of individual research areas, cooperation areas and fields of knowledge. It comprises interdisciplinary research [10] in its application to life-worldly problem fields. In the foreground of this is the development of systems knowledge (determination of the initial position and handling of existing uncertainties), target knowledge (weighting and clarification of the variety in objectives under the guideline of a problem solution approach oriented to the common good) and transformation knowledge (change possibilities with inclusion of existing technical, social, legal, cultural etc. framework conditions) -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014

p.3: Though transdisciplinary research is hence at home in the science landscape in a comprehensive, diverse and exible manner, it does, however, have strong scientific guidelines and requirements like system integration, formative innovation principles, participation, recursive processes and validation -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014

p.3: However, citizen science on the other hand defines itself simply methodically via the participation of volunteers in the scientific work and is otherwise free in scientific framing and target definition. -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014

p.3: Starting from a life-worldly problem formulation and a transdisciplinary alignment of the responsible scientists, quite a lot of citizen science projects, in particular from the area of environmental research, can even be reworded as transdisciplinary research projects, where the tackling of scientific tasks by the crowd is understood as a research method. -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014

p.3: Participation is considered a central factor for the execution of transdisciplinary activities and is naturally the core module of crowdsourcing. Forms, possibilities and the extent of participation therefore form the analytic foundation in order to define the methodical content of crowdsourcing for transdisciplinary research. -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014

p.4: Mobjörk [18] discriminates between consulting and participatory transdisciplinary research. In the first case participants only act in a consultative way, whereas in the second case knowledge from the life-worldly regime is on equal footing with scientific knowledge for executing the project. -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014

p.4: Ulrich [19] also points out the importance of reflexivity in the context of participation (as Elzinga, see above). Within the framework of his concept "critically systemic thinking" each participant should reflect their own system boundaries (perception and evaluation boundaries). Ulrich distinguishes four so-called boundary issues: "sources ofmotivation, power, knowledge, legitimation." Each should correspond to a social role of a person involved: "client, decision-maker, professional, witness." In this context, he concludes that experts and citizens should meet as equals. -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014

p.4: Enengel et al. [20] contribute to the discussion with a distinguished analytical framework, which splits into four denominations: "typology of actor roles", "research phases", "objectives and forms of actor integration", "types of knowledge". Within the first category they differentiate between the following roles: "core scientists" (e.g. scientific supervisor of the project), "scientific consultants" (e.g. external academic experts), "professional practice experts" (e.g. experts in practical and political aspects of the project), "strategic case actors" (e.g. local politicians or organisers of the project), "local case actors" (e.g. residents affected by the issue under consideration). -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014

p.4: Reed [22] provides a literature review about stakeholder participation within the framework of environmental management. Different participation typologies are reected, which respectively represent specific qualities: "degrees of participation", "nature of participation" (with respect to communication flows), "normative and/or pragmatic participation", "objectives for which participation is used." -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014

p.5: On account of the variety in participation possibilities and a participant group that is diversied in its approach, crowdsourcing should be able to make contributions in all phases of research. According to [17,20] this could not be realised up to now, as participation primarily takes place in the first and last phase of a research process (cf. Section 3.1). Based on crowdsourcing processes, the part in between, the scientific problem analysis, is also accessible to the community, e.g. by opening scientific tasks and subtasks for discussion and editing in the framework of a web-based cooperation platform. In this way the role of the researcher is extended to the community. -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014

p.6: Moreover, transdisciplinary processes of integration also avail themselves methodically with the help of formal models (in particular by system modelling) [10,15]. The use of appropriate wiki and project management tools offers the possibility, within the scope of crowdsourcing, to collectively compile a jointly accepted model in which the knowledge assets and competencies, as well as the fields of interest from the community, will be reflected. -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014

p.6: According to [10], there are four innovation heuristics that relate to the identication of new scientific structures and solution approaches within the scope of transdisciplinary integration: the identication of lead structures and interfaces (often called "boundary objects" in the transdisciplinary context), transfer of methods and knowledge beyond disciplinary borders, the variation principle (performing of small change processes to discover new scientific ways) and the recursion principle (reective and revision-oriented retrospective on research processes already running). -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014

p.7: The transdisciplinary research project, in particular the conveying and implementation of project results in practice, still profits from quite another effect that should result automatically by itself, or as a welcome side-effect when using crowdsourcing. Within the scope of the variety of participation roles, the community actively integrates itself in the research process. Depending on the current task and role, a participant will deal with certain contents, tasks, other elds of interest and viewpoints. In this, his own knowledge base also grows, contacts and mutual learning incentives originate, something that should, for example, trigger (unexpected) recursive and validation processes and, last but not least, also understanding and consensus processes. A participant with low interest at first can develop into a player with decisive contributions, and another person, who is affected by the problem situation, receives and compiles essential information and solution options for his case, as well as a certain understanding for comprehensive contexts, etc. -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014

p.7: Another important control and success factor lies in the motivation of the participants. Different incentives and motivational situations can influence the willingness to co-operate, the quality and quantity of the contributions. Extrinsic (status, networking, premiums, etc.) as well as intrinsic motives (playfulness, identication with the project, interest and pleasure, intellectual challenge, etc.) are to be considered, for this. -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014

p.8: Playful and competitive environments, general or specialised web platforms, design and maintenance of relevant communities, comparative orientation on successful open innovation and open source projects (cf. [28]), are additional factors that should be specified, tested and further developed in greater detail. -- Highlighted apr 18, 2014