Unregulated Health Research Using Mobile Devices: Ethical Considerations and Policy Recommendations


Paper by Mark A. Rothstein et al: “Mobile devices with health apps, direct-to-consumer genetic testing, crowd-sourced information, and other data sources have enabled research by new classes of researchers. Independent researchers, citizen scientists, patient-directed researchers, self-experimenters, and others are not covered by federal research regulations because they are not recipients of federal financial assistance or conducting research in anticipation of a submission to the FDA for approval of a new drug or medical device. This article addresses the difficult policy challenge of promoting the welfare and interests of research participants, as well as the public, in the absence of regulatory requirements and without discouraging independent, innovative scientific inquiry. The article recommends a series of measures, including education, consultation, transparency, self-governance, and regulation to strike the appropriate balance….(More)”.

Unleashing the Crowd: Collaborative Solutions to Wicked Business and Societal Problems


Book by Ann Majchrzak and Arvind Malhotra: “This book disrupts the way practitioners and academic scholars think about crowds, crowdsourcing, innovation, and new organizational forms in this emerging period of ubiquitous access to the internet. The authors argue that the current approach to crowdsourcing unnecessarily limits the crowd to offering ideas, locking out those of us with knowledge about a problem.  They use data from 25 case studies of flash crowds — anonymous strangers answering online announcements to participate in a 7-10 day innovation challenge — half of whom were unleashed from the limitations of focusing on ideas.  Yet, these crowds were able to develop new business models, new product lines, and offer useful solutions to global problems in fields as diverse as health care insurance, software development, and societal change. This book, which offers a theory of collective production of innovative solutions explaining the practices that the crowds organically followed, will revolutionize current assumptions about how innovation and crowdsourcing should be managed for commercial as well as societal purposes….(More)”.

CROWD4EMS: a Crowdsourcing Platform for Gathering and Geolocating Social Media Content in Disaster Response


Paper by Ravi Shankar et al” Increase in access to mobile phone devices and social media networks has changed the way people report and respond to disasters. Community-driven initiatives such as Stand By Task Force (SBTF) or GISCorps have shown great potential by crowdsourcing the acquisition, analysis, and geolocation of social media data for disaster responders. These initiatives face two main challenges: (1) most of social media content such as photos and videos are not geolocated, thus preventing the information to be used by emergency responders, and (2) they lack tools to manage volunteers contributions and aggregate them in order to ensure high quality and reliable results. This paper illustrates the use of a crowdsourcing platform that combines automatic methods for gathering information from social media and crowdsourcing techniques, in order to manage and aggregate volunteers contributions. High precision geolocation is achieved by combining data mining techniques for estimating the location of photos and videos from social media, and crowdsourcing for the validation and/or improvement of the estimated location.

The evaluation of the proposed approach is carried out using data related to the Amatrice Earthquake in 2016, coming from Flickr, Twitter and Youtube. A common data set is analyzed and geolocated by both the volunteers using the proposed platform and a group of experts. Data quality and data reliability is assessed by comparing volunteers versus experts results. Final results are shown in a web map service providing a global view of the information social media provided about the Amatrice Earthquake event…(More)”.

GROW Citizens’ Observatory: Leveraging the power of citizens, open data and technology to generate engagement, and action on soil policy and soil moisture monitoring


Paper by M. Woods et al: “Citizens’ Observatories (COs) seek to extend conventional citizen science activities to scale up the potential of citizen sensing for environmental monitoring and creation of open datasets, knowledge and action around environmental issues, both local and global. The GROW CO has connected the planetary dimension of satellites with the hyperlocal context of farmers and their soil. GROW has faced three main interrelated challenges associated with each of the three core audiences of the observatory, namely citizens, scientists and policy makers: one is sustained citizen engagement, quality assurance of citizen-generated data and the challenge to move from data to action in practice and policy. We discuss how each of these challenges were overcome and gave way to the following related project outputs: 1) Contributing to satellite validation and enhancing the collective intelligence of GEOSS 2) Dynamic maps and visualisations for growers, scientists and policy makers 3) Social-technical innovations data art…(More)”.

The crowd in crowdsourcing: Crowdsourcing as a pragmatic research method


Lina Eklund, Isabell Stamm, Wanda Katja Liebermann at First Monday:
“Crowdsourcing, as a digital process employed to obtain information, ideas, and solicit contributions of work, creativity, etc., from large online crowds stems from business, yet is increasingly used in research. Engaging with previous literature and a symposium on academic crowdsourcing this study explores the underlying assumptions about crowdsourcing as a potential academic research method and how these affect the knowledge produced. Results identify crowdsourcing research as research about and with the crowd, explore how tasks can be productive, reconfiguring, and evaluating, and how these are linked to intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, we also identify three types of platforms: commercial platforms, research-specific platforms, and project specific platforms. Finally, the study suggests that crowdsourcing is a digital method that could be considered a pragmatic method; the challenge of a sound crowdsourcing project is to think about the researcher’s relationship to the crowd, the tasks, and the platform used….(More)”.

Crowdsourcing Reliable Local Data


Paper by Jane Lawrence Sumner , Emily M. Farris and Mirya R. Holman: “The adage “All politics is local” in the United States is largely true. Of the United States’ 90,106 governments, 99.9% are local governments. Despite variations in institutional features, descriptive representation, and policy-making power, political scientists have been slow to take advantage of these variations. One obstacle is that comprehensive data on local politics is often extremely difficult to obtain; as a result, data is unavailable or costly, hard to replicate, and rarely updated. We provide an alternative: crowdsourcing this data. We demonstrate and validate crowdsourcing data on local politics using two different data collection projects. We evaluate different measures of consensus across coders and validate the crowd’s work against elite and professional datasets. In doing so, we show that crowdsourced data is both highly accurate and easy to use. In doing so, we demonstrate that nonexperts can be used to collect, validate, or update local data….(More)”.

Real-time maps warn Hong Kong protesters of water cannons and riot police


Mary Hui at Quartz: “The “Be Water” nature of Hong Kong’s protests means that crowds move quickly and spread across the city. They might stage a protest in the central business district one weekend, then industrial neighborhoods and far-flung suburban towns the next. And a lot is happening at any one time at each protest. One of the key difficulties for protesters is to figure out what’s happening in the crowded, fast-changing, and often chaotic circumstances.

Citizen-led efforts to map protests in real-time are an attempt to address those challenges and answer some pressing questions for protesters and bystanders alike: Where should they go? Where have tear gas and water cannons been deployed? Where are police advancing, and are there armed thugs attacking civilians?

One of the most widely used real-time maps of the protests is HKMap.live, a volunteer-run and crowdsourced effort that officially launched in early August. It’s a dynamic map of Hong Kong that users can zoom in and out of, much like Google Maps. But in addition to detailed street and building names, this one features various emoji to communicate information at a glance: a dog for police, a worker in a yellow hardhat for protesters, a dinosaur for the police’s black-clad special tactical squad, a white speech-bubble for tear gas, two exclamation marks for danger.

HKMap during a protest on August 31, 2019.

Founded by a finance professional in his 20s and who only wished to be identified as Kuma, HKMap is an attempt to level the playing field between protesters and officers, he said in an interview over chat app Telegram. While earlier on in the protest movement people relied on text-based, on-the-ground  live updates through public Telegram channels, Kuma found these to be too scattered to be effective, and hard to visualize unless someone knew the particular neighborhood inside out.

“The huge asymmetric information between protesters and officers led to multiple occasions of surround and capture,” said Kuma. Passersby and non-frontline protesters could also make use of the map, he said, to avoid tense conflict zones. After some of his friends were arrested in late July, he decided to build HKMap….(More)”.

For Crowdsourcing to Work, Everyone Needs an Equal Voice


Joshua Becker and Edward “Ned” Smith in Havard Business Review: “How useful is the wisdom of crowds? For years, it has been recognized as producing incredibly accurate predictions by aggregating the opinions of many people, allowing even amateur forecasters to beat the experts. The belief is that when large numbers of people make forecasts independently, their errors are uncorrelated and ultimately cancel each other out, which leads to more accurate final answers.

However, researchers and pundits have argued that the wisdom of crowds is extremely fragile, especially in two specific circumstances: when people are influenced by the opinions of others (because they lose their independence) and when opinions are distorted by cognitive biases (for example, strong political views held by a group).

In new research, we and our colleagues zeroed in on these assumptions and found that the wisdom of crowds is more robust than previously thought — it can even withstand the groupthink of similar-minded people. But there’s one important caveat: In order for the wisdom of crowds to retain its accuracy for making predictions, every member of the group must be given an equal voice, without any one person dominating. As we discovered, the pattern of social influence within groups — that is, who talks to whom and when — is the key determinant of the crowd’s accuracy in making predictions….(More)”.

New App Uses Crowdsourcing to Find You an EpiPen in an Emergency


Article by Shaunacy Ferro: “Many people at risk for severe allergic reactions to things like peanuts and bee stings carry EpiPens. These tools inject the medication epinephrine into one’s bloodstream to control immune responses immediately. But exposure can turn into life-threatening situations in a flash: Without EpiPens, people could suffer anaphylactic shock in less than 15 minutes as they wait for an ambulance. Being without an EpiPen or other auto-injector can have deadly consequences.

EPIMADA, a new app created by researchers at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, is designed to save the lives of people who go into anaphylactic shock when they don’t have EpiPens handy. The app uses the same type of algorithms that ride-hailing services use to match drivers and riders by location—in this case, EPIMADA matches people in distress with nearby strangers carrying EpiPens. David Schwartz, director of the university’s Social Intelligence Lab and one of the app’s co-creators, told The Jerusalem Post that the app currently has hundreds of users….

EPIMADA serves as a way to crowdsource medication from fellow patients who might be close by and able to help. While it may seem unlikely that people would rush to give up their own expensive life-saving tool for a stranger, EPIMADA co-creator Michal Gaziel Yablowitz, a doctoral student in the Social Intelligence Lab, explained in a press release that “preliminary research results show that allergy patients are highly motivated to give their personal EpiPen to patient-peers in immediate need.”…(More)”.

An archeological space oddity


Nick Paumgarten at the New Yorker: “…Parcak is a pioneer in the use of remote sensing, via satellite, to find and map potential locations that would otherwise be invisible to us. Variations in the chemical composition of the earth reveal the ghost shadows of ancient walls and citadels, watercourses and planting fields. The nifty kid-friendly name for all this is “archeology from space,” which also happens to be the title of Parcak’s new book. That’s a bit of a misnomer, because, technically, the satellites in question are in the mid-troposphere, and also the archeology still happens on, or under, the ground. In spite of the whiz-bang abracadabra of the multispectral imagery, Parcak is, at heart, a shovel bum…..Another estimate of Parcak’s, based on satellite data: there are roughly fifty million unmapped archeological sites around the world. Many, if not most, will be gone or corrupted by 2040, she says, the threats being not just looting but urban development, illegal construction, and climate change. In 2016, Parcak won the ted Prize, a grant of a million dollars; she used it to launch a project called GlobalXplorer, a crowdsourcing platform, by which citizen Indiana Joneses can scrutinize satellite maps and identify potential new sites, adding these to a database without publicly revealing the coördinates. The idea is to deploy more eyeballs (and, ultimately, more benevolent shovel bums) in the race against carbon and greed….(More)”.