Sunday, 8 January 2017

Thing 17: Survey tools (i)

This post is an interim progress report.  I have, as Georgina bids us, applied for a Qualtrics account; I have made a survey using Google Forms while waiting for Qualtrics to arrive, and tweeted links to said survey.  Later, I will do a 'Thing 17: Survey tools (ii)' post, reporting on how I find Qualtrics and what answers, if any, my Google Forms survey has drawn.

The survey takes its cue from the 2017 Libraries at Cambridge conference. Registrants at the conference were invited to indicate what their superhero powers were, and a few did.  But the conference included much -- a panel discussion and a well-received keynote address -- on the theme of failure.  My survey asks respondents about superpowers they don't have.

Reading the posts of other '23 research things' participants has been most instructive, particularly Luther's notes about the limitations of surveying as a technique and the usefulness of other methods. He is quite right to note the ease with which spurious survey returns can be created; conversely, a toxic situation can be inflamed by insinuations that some survey returns are bogus, even if the insinuations have no basis in fact.  Luther's reference to 'grounded theory' took me on to unfamiliar territory, and I look forward to exploring this further.  Trying to relate it to my my own experience, I suppose it was something like grounded theorizing when I examined the free-text responses to a Haddon Library user survey, and when I asked library users informally why they thought a particular teaching session had had zero take-up.  In both cases I was trying to see if any patterns emerged.

Of these things, more when Qualtrics is in.  And any superpower survey responses.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Thing 16: Crowdsourcing and citizen science


Georgina's post for this Thing has led me to re-familiarise myself with Kickstarter and Patreon, on both of which I have responded to appeals in recent years.  So far as I can tell, the main difference between the two sites is reflected in their names: Kickstarter enables contributions to get projects started, Patreon enables long-term support.  Composer Kathryn Rose has released some good music, and music in progress, via Patreon, and interesting accounts on her blog and Twitter stream about how the site impinges on the creative process and her business model.

I can see I'd do well to follow more on both sites.

"Do you have an idea for a project that could be crowdfunded?" asks the post.  Sorry, no.  I am intrigued to read the caveats from A Waterfall of Consciousness and Library Spiel about the risk that crowdfunded projects may repel friends and regular funders, especially noting that in Library Spiel's case this caveat is evidently based on experience.  Here's an idea that I did have at one time; it has now run out of steam, and crowdfunding is not sought.  I had better admit that my own kin never thought much of the project.

Citizen science

"What do you think about the democratisation of research and science through citizen science projects?"

It's probably a good idea.  Here's an article my science-journalist wife wrote about developments in this area some four years ago.  Note that the article doesn't present citizen science as an irreversible triumph: in 2013, chemistry was less keen on the idea.  Despite the successful application of citizen-science practice in some chemical research, the question was "Should chemistry join the gang?" and reservations were quoted from some chemists.  I don't know if it's significant that Zooniverse's current project list includes no reference to chemistry.

Related to both chemistry and citizen science is another movement drawn to my attention by Clare: that of the expert patient.  A flagship for this movement is Patientslikeme.  New research mentioned on this site on the day I write, 1 January 2017, includes developments in clinical trials, new ways of indicating levels of pain, and improvements in patients' self-management and self-efficacy.

The question uses the word 'democratisation'.  Democratisation is the benefit that citizen science confers.  Research abc writes that "Hopefully more people appreciating this process will increase public confidence in scientific statements."  

That's better than an unquestioning acceptance of what experts say.  And better than a generic distrust of experts.

I suppose citizen science stands up better against sociopaths and demagogues than those other states.  But I bet a determined troublemaker could spoil even citizen science.