Ukraine shows us the power of the 21st Century Citizen

Essay by Matt Leighninger: “This is a new kind of war, waged by a new kind of citizen.

The failure of the Russian forces to subdue Ukraine quickly has astonished experts, officials, and journalists worldwide. It shouldn’t. The Ukrainian resistance is just the latest example of the new attitudes and abilities of 21st century citizens.

While social media has been getting a lot of attention in this “TikTok War,” the real story is the growing determination and capacity of ordinary people. Around the world, ordinary people are fundamentally different from people of generations past. They have dramatically higher levels of education, far less deference to authority figures, and much greater facility with technology.

These trends have changed citizenship itself. We need to understand this shift so that societies, especially democratic ones, can figure out how to adapt, both in war and peace.

The war in Ukraine is instructive, in at least four ways.

First, citizens now have the ability to make their own media; Ukrainians, under attack, are mass-producing reality TV. Thanks to footage produced by thousands of people and viewed by millions, the war has a constantly unfolding cast of characters. Ukrainian farmers towing Russian vehicles, a soldier moonwalking in a field, people joyriding on a captured Russian tank, and a little girl singing “Let It Go” in a Kiev bomb shelter have become relatable, inspiring figures in the conflict. Seemingly every time Ukrainians have success on the battlefield, they upload videos of burned tanks and downed planes…(More)”.

Crowdsourcing and COVID-19: How public administrations mobilize crowds to find solutions to problems posed by the pandemic

Paper by Ana Colovic, Annalisa Caloffi, and Federica Rossi: “We discuss how public administrations have used crowdsourcing to find solutions to specific problems posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to what extent crowdsourcing has been instrumental in promoting open innovation and service co-creation. We propose a conceptual typology of crowdsourcing challenges based on the degree of their openness and collaboration with the crowd that they establish. Using empirical evidence collected in 2020 and 2021, we examine the extent to which these types have been used in practice. We discuss each type of crowdsourcing challenge identified and draw implications for public policy…(More)”.

“Medical Matchmaking” provides personalized insights

Matthew Hempstead at Springwise: “Humanity is a collection of unique individuals who represent a complex mixture of medical realities. Yet traditional medicine is based on a ‘law of averages’ – treating patients based on generalisations about the population as a whole. This law of averages can be misleading, and in a world where the average American spends 52 hours looking for health information online each year, generalisations create misunderstandings. Information provided by ‘Dr. Google’ or Facebook is inadequate and doesn’t account for the specific characteristics of each individual.

Israeli startup Alike has come up with a novel multidisciplinary solution to this problem – using health data and machine learning to match people who are alike on a holistic level. The AI’s matchmaking takes into account considerations such as co-morbidities, lifestyle factors, age, and gender.

Patients are then put into contact with an anonymised community of ‘Alikes’ – people who share their exact clinical journey, lifestyle, and interests. Members of this community can share or receive relevant and personalised insights that help them to better manage their conditions.

The new technology is possible due to regulatory changes that make it possible for everyone to gain instant electronic access to their personal health records. The app allows users to automatically create a health profile through a direct connection with their health provider.

Given the sensitive nature of medical information, Alike has put in place stringent privacy controls. The data shared on the app is completely de-identified, which means all personal identifiers are removed. Every user is verified by their healthcare provider, and further measures including data encryption and data fuzzing are employed. This means that patients can benefit from the insights of other patients while maintaining their privacy…(More)”.

Tracking symptoms of respiratory diseases online can give a picture of community health

Article by Mvuyo Makhasi, Cheryl Cohen and Sibongile Walaza: “Participatory surveillance has not yet been implemented in African countries. There has only ever been one pilot study, in Tanzania. In 2016, a pilot study of a mobile app called AfyaData was implemented for participatory surveillance in Tanzania. The aim was to establish a platform where members of the community could report any symptoms they encountered. Based on the clinical data provided these would be grouped into categories of diseases. In the pilot study most of the reported cases were related to the digestive system. The second most frequently reported cases were related to the respiratory system. This demonstrated the potential of obtaining close to real-time data on diseases directly from the community….

Participatory surveillance is in place in 11 European countries that form part of the InfluenzaNet network. Here it’s been shown to address some of the limitations of traditional facility-based systems. For example, it can detect the start of the flu season up to two weeks earlier than traditional facility-based surveillance. This allows public health officials to plan and respond earlier to seasonal outbreaks.

Self-reporting systems provide similar and complementary data to facility-based surveillance. They show:

  • variations over time in cases of acute respiratory tract infection
  • time to peak of incidence of acute cases
  • the peak intensity of acute cases
  • a comparison between participatory and facility-based surveillance trends.

The same analysis can now be done for COVID-19 cases, which were previously not included in participatory surveillance platforms.

The systems enable analysis of health-seeking behaviour in people who don’t see a doctor or nurse. For example, people may use home-based remedies, search for guidelines on the internet or consult traditional healers. Health-seeking surveys are often conducted in research studies for a defined period of time, but data is not routinely collected. Participatory surveillance is a longitudinal and systematic way of collecting information about health-seeking behaviour related to respiratory diseases.

Vaccine effectiveness estimates can also be determined through participatory surveillance data. This includes vaccine coverage for seasonal influenza and COVID-19 and information on how these vaccines perform in preventing illness. These data can be compared with vaccine effectiveness estimates from facility-based surveillance…(More)”.

Archivists Make Sure the Internet Doesn’t Forget Russia’s War on Ukraine

Karl Bode at VICE: “As the Russian invasion of Ukraine accelerates, professional and hobbyist archivists alike are rushing to preserve Ukraine’s online history, cataloging and storing everything from Ukrainian government and university websites, to the torrent of news and social media posts related to the accelerating conflict.

The Internet Archive has been archiving the broader conflict in Ukraine since 2014. But as Ukraine government websites face prolonged outages due to sustained cyber attack—as well as the looming risk of defacement or deletion—the organization has taken on another monumental task: backing up the entirety of the Ukrainian Internet.

Using the crowdsourced auto-archiving software running on a virtual machine they’ve dubbed Archive Team Warrior, the organization has leveraged volunteers around the world, many of whom have donated countless terabytes of storage capacity for the project. These volunteers have been steadily backing up the Ukrainian Internet since before the war began.

All told, 68 million items (web pages, documents, and other files) comprising more than 2.5 TB of data have already been hoovered up from various websites across the .ua top level Ukrainian domain. A second project dubbed Ukr-net aims to preserve tens of millions of additional items and terabytes of additional data across the Ukrainian Internet.

Elsewhere, organizations like the Center For Information Resilience have built a crowdsourced map attempting to document every single war-related post to social media made in the region, ranging from civilian photos of the movement of heavy Russian weaponry, to Ukranian government claims of alleged bombing raids on kindergardens…(More)”.

Crowdsourcing research questions in science

Paper by Susanne Beck, Tiare-Maria Brasseur, Marion Poetz and Henry Sauermann: “Scientists are increasingly crossing the boundaries of the professional system by involving the general public (the crowd) directly in their research. However, this crowd involvement tends to be confined to empirical work and it is not clear whether and how crowds can also be involved in conceptual stages such as formulating the questions that research is trying to address. Drawing on five different “paradigms” of crowdsourcing and related mechanisms, we first discuss potential merits of involving crowds in the formulation of research questions (RQs). We then analyze data from two crowdsourcing projects in the medical sciences to describe key features of RQs generated by crowd members and compare the quality of crowd contributions to that of RQs generated in the conventional scientific process. We find that the majority of crowd contributions are problem restatements that can be useful to assess problem importance but provide little guidance regarding potential causes or solutions. At the same time, crowd-generated research questions frequently cross disciplinary boundaries by combining elements from different fields within and especially outside medicine. Using evaluations by professional scientists, we find that the average crowd contribution has lower novelty and potential scientific impact than professional research questions, but comparable practical impact. Crowd contributions outperform professional RQs once we apply selection mechanisms at the level of individual contributors or across contributors. Our findings advance research on crowd and citizen science, crowdsourcing and distributed knowledge production, as well as the organization of science. We also inform ongoing policy debates around the involvement of citizens in research in general, and agenda setting in particular.Author links open overlay panel…(More)”.

Public Provides NASA with New Innovations through Prize Competitions, Crowdsourcing, Citizen Science Opportunities

NASA Report: “Whether problem-solving during the pandemic, establishing a long-term presence at the Moon, or advancing technology to adapt to life in space, NASA has leveraged open innovation tools to inspire solutions to some of our most timely challenges – while using the creativity of everyone from garage tinkerers to citizen scientists and students of all ages.

Open Innovation: Boosting NASA Higher, Faster, and Farther highlights some of those breakthroughs, which accelerate space technology development and discovery while giving the public a gateway to work with NASA. Open innovation initiatives include problem-focused challenges and prize competitions, data hackathons, citizen science, and crowdsourcing projects that invite the public to lend their skills, ideas, and time to support NASA research and development programs.

NASA engaged the public with 56 public prize competitions and challenges and 14 citizen science and crowdsourcing activities over fiscal years 2019 and 2020. NASA awarded $2.2 million in prize money, and members of the public submitted over 11,000 solutions during that period.

“NASA’s accomplishments have hardly been NASA’s alone. Tens of thousands more individuals from academic institutions, private companies, and other space agencies also contribute to these solutions. Open innovation expands the NASA community and broadens the agency’s capacity for innovation and discovery even further,” said Amy Kaminski, Prizes, Challenges, and Crowdsourcing program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We harness the perspectives, expertise, and enthusiasm of ‘the crowd’ to gain diverse solutions, speed up projects, and reduce costs.”

This edition of the publication highlights:

  • How NASA used open innovation tools to accelerate the pace of problem-solving during the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling a sprint of creativity to create valuable solutions in support of this global crisis
  • How NASA invited everyone to embrace the Moon as a technological testing ground through public prize competitions and challenges, sparking development that could help prolong human stays on the Moon and lay the foundation for human exploration to Mars and beyond  
  • How citizen scientists gather, sort, and upload data, resulting in fruitful partnerships between the public and NASA scientists
  • How NASA’s student-focused challenges have changed lives and positively impacted underserved communities…(More)”.

What’s the problem? How crowdsourcing and text-mining may contribute to the understanding of unprecedented problems such as COVID-19

Paper by Julian Wahl, Johann Füller, and Katja Hutter: “In this research, we explore how crowdsourcing combined with text-mining can help to build a sound understanding of unstructured, complex and ill-defined problems. Therefore, we gathered 101 problem descriptions contributed to a crowdsourcing contest about the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism industry. Based on our findings we propose a five-phase process model for problem understanding consisting of: (1) information gathering, (2) information pre-structuring, (3) problem space mapping, (4) problem space exploration, and (5) problem understanding for solution search. While our study confirms that crowdsourcing and text-mining facilitate fast generation and exploration of problem spaces at limited cost, it also reveals the necessity to follow certain process steps and to deal with challenges such as information loss and human interpretation. For practitioners, our model presents a guideline for how to get a faster grasp on complex and rather unprecedented problems…(More)”.

Expecting the Unexpected: Effects of Data Collection Design Choices on the Quality of Crowdsourced User-Generated Content

Paper by Roman Lukyanenko: “As crowdsourced user-generated content becomes an important source of data for organizations, a pressing question is how to ensure that data contributed by ordinary people outside of traditional organizational boundaries is of suitable quality to be useful for both known and unanticipated purposes. This research examines the impact of different information quality management strategies, and corresponding data collection design choices, on key dimensions of information quality in crowdsourced user-generated content. We conceptualize a contributor-centric information quality management approach focusing on instance-based data collection. We contrast it with the traditional consumer-centric fitness-for-use conceptualization of information quality that emphasizes class-based data collection. We present laboratory and field experiments conducted in a citizen science domain that demonstrate trade-offs between the quality dimensions of accuracy, completeness (including discoveries), and precision between the two information management approaches and their corresponding data collection designs. Specifically, we show that instance-based data collection results in higher accuracy, dataset completeness and number of discoveries, but this comes at the expense of lower precision. We further validate the practical value of the instance-based approach by conducting an applicability check with potential data consumers (scientists, in our context of citizen science). In a follow-up study, we show, using human experts and supervised machine learning techniques, that substantial precision gains on instance-based data can be achieved with post-processing. We conclude by discussing the benefits and limitations of different information quality and data collection design choice for information quality in crowdsourced user-generated content…(More)”.

Making Space for Everyone

Amy Paige Kaminski at Issues: “The story of how NASA came to see the public as instrumental in accomplishing its mission provides insights for R&D agencies trying to create societal value, relevance, and connection….Over the decades since, NASA’s approaches to connecting with citizens have evolved with the introduction of new information and communications technologies, social change, legal developments, scientific progress, and external trends in space activities and public engagement. The result has been an increasing and increasingly accessible set of opportunities that have enabled diverse segments of society to connect more closely with NASA’s work and, in turn, boost the agency’s techno-scientific and societal value….

Another significant change in public engagement practices has been providing more people with opportunities to do space-related R&D. Through the shuttle program, the agency enabled companies, universities, high schools, and an eclectic set of participants ranging from artists to garden seed companies to develop and fly payloads. The stated purpose was to advance knowledge of the effects of the space environment—a concept that was sometimes loosely defined. 

Today NASA similarly encourages a broad set of players to use the International Space Station (ISS) for R&D. While some of the shuttle and ISS programs have charged fees to payload owners, NASA has instead offered grants, primarily to the university community, for competitively selected research projects in space science. The agency also invites various groups to propose experiments and technology development projects through government-wide programs such as the Small Business Innovative Research program, which aims to foster innovation in small businesses, as well as the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (better known by its EPSCoR acronym), which seeks to enhance research infrastructure and competitiveness at the state level….(More)”.