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Citizen science: generating ideas and exploring consensus

Why it matters

All research starts with a good idea, and that idea doesn’t have to come from ‘traditional’ researchers. Citizen science has empowered new voices to shape research by contributing ideas and helping make decisions.

From Starbucks to the NHS, organisations are using citizen science to generate ideas and explore consensus among people from diverse backgrounds. Idea generation platforms can help collect ideas from thousands of participants, and consensus exploring tools can help build agreement among large groups of people on a particular topic.   

THIS Institute’s third report on citizen science builds on previous reports about crowdsourcing for research and crowdsourcing for systematic reviews. It provides an overview of platforms and tools for generating ideas and building consensus, describes how they have been used in various  initiatives, and looks at their potential in healthcare improvement research.

What we did

We gathered evidence for this report from the relevant academic literature, policy reports and non-peer-reviewed studies. We also interviewed five experts in idea generation and consensus exploration tools.

What we found

  • Crowdsourcing platforms can help organisations generate ideas and find unique solutions to problems.
  • Citizen science has the potential to ‘democratise’ idea generation.
  • Online consensus-building tools can help researchers understand the opinions of large groups of people and determine where consensus exists.
  • Citizen science can help improve healthcare by gathering and synthesising opinions from NHS staff and patients. Using a crowdsourcing platform, one NHS trust gathered improvement ideas from 1,600 staff members and volunteers.

Related content from our open-access series, Elements of Improving Quality and Safety in Healthcare

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