What Is the Problem? Crowdsourcing Research Questions in Science

49 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2020

See all articles by Susanne Beck

Susanne Beck

LBG Open Innovation in Science Center (LBG OIS Center); Copenhagen Business School - Department of Strategy and Innovation

Tiare-Maria Brasseur

LBG Open Innovation in Science Center; Copenhagen Business School - Department of Strategy and Innovation

Marion Poetz

Copenhagen Business School - Department of Strategy and Innovation

Henry Sauermann

ESMT European School of Management and Technology

Date Written: May 11, 2020

Abstract

Scientific research has for a long time been performed by professional scientists in a distinct institutional context. Recently, however, scientists have started to cross institutional boundaries by involving the general public (the crowd) directly in research. This crowd involvement tends to be confined to empirical stages of research process (e.g., data collection and processing) and it is not clear whether the crowd can also contribute to conceptual stages of the research process, in particular the formulation of research questions (RQs). Drawing on theories of problem solving and knowledge production, we first develop a framework that ties dimensions of research question quality to different types of experiential and scientific knowledge. We also discuss potential benefits and challenges of involving the crowd in RQ formulation and theorize how knowledge interventions affect RQ quality. We then use data from a field experiment in the medical sciences to explore features of research questions generated by the crowd and to test the effectiveness of knowledge interventions. Our results show that crowd members can generate high-quality research questions that differ from those typically produced in scientific research, although most RQs are plain problem restatements. More importantly, we show that the quality of crowd-generated RQs can be improved through simple interventions that provide crowd members with different types of scientific knowledge they are otherwise lacking. We discuss contributions to the literatures on the organization of science and distributed knowledge production, as well as implications for practitioners and policy makers.

Keywords: Organization of science, knowledge production, problem finding, crowdsourcing, field experiments

Suggested Citation

Beck, Susanne and Brasseur, Tiare-Maria and Poetz, Marion and Sauermann, Henry, What Is the Problem? Crowdsourcing Research Questions in Science (May 11, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3598181 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3598181

Susanne Beck (Contact Author)

LBG Open Innovation in Science Center (LBG OIS Center) ( email )

Nußdorfer Str. 64
Vienna, 1090
Austria

Copenhagen Business School - Department of Strategy and Innovation ( email )

Kilen
Frederiksberg, 2000
Denmark

Tiare-Maria Brasseur

LBG Open Innovation in Science Center ( email )

Nußdorfer Str. 64
Vienna, 1090
Austria

Copenhagen Business School - Department of Strategy and Innovation ( email )

Kilen
Frederiksberg, 2000
Denmark

Marion Poetz

Copenhagen Business School - Department of Strategy and Innovation ( email )

Kilen
Frederiksberg, 2000
Denmark

Henry Sauermann

ESMT European School of Management and Technology ( email )

Schlossplatz 1
10117 Berlin
Germany

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