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Tomorrow’s World nQuire

1st June 2017 - 31st December 2019

The Open University and the BBC have set up a joint project to develop a web platform for running large-scale public experiments in psychology and social science. The BBC has experience in running mass-participation experiments 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’, which helps people learn by doing large-scale science.

The first year of the project we developed and extended the existing nQuire-it site to include support for a new type of ‘mission’ involving surveys and quizzes. Scientists, and members of the public, are now able to create and run online studies to explore attitudes and personality. This involves providing new ways to enter responses, secure handling of personal data, and ways for participants to see overview results. We are currently designing the authoring tool that will enable any member of the public to set up their own investigations, monitored and moderated by the research team.

Our aim is to develop a dynamic citizen science platform that can host a variety of citizen science investigations and allow citizens to set up their own research projects. At the moment, nQuire supports two types of mission: confidential and social. In confidential missions, all data are anonymised before sending for analysis. For social missions, all responses are open for other participants to view and discuss online. Investigations or Missions can include a rich mix of elements such as: sounds or images as prompts; the ability for participants to upload a picture or sound as a response; and a variety of response types such as slider scales. Owners of the mission (for a confidential mission) or any user (for an open mission) can download data in spreadsheet format. Results from a mission can be published on the platform.

Emeritus Professor Mike Sharples leads the design of the nQuire platform.

Regius Professor Eileen Scanlon has oversight of the nQuire project.

Dr Christothea Herodotou leads the research activity around nQuire.