Citizen science: generating ideas and exploring consensus
Citizen science-based idea management platforms offer a digital social space to generate, discuss, refine and evaluate ideas. Additionally, a variety of methods exist for exploring expert consensus, many of which are Delphi-based.
On behalf of The Healthcare Improvement Studies (THIS) Institute, researchers provided a practical overview of online approaches to opinion gathering.
Researchers seeking to gather opinions from stakeholders have more options than ever before, thanks to a diverse range of digital citizen science resources. Online idea generation platforms use crowdsourcing to engage large groups of people to help solve problems and develop innovations, while consensus-exploring tools draw on smaller groups to help researchers understand a range of opinions and achieve consensus on a particular topic. Such approaches could be useful in healthcare improvement studies, helping gather expert ideas from NHS staff and patients and building consensus on important issues.
In the final report of a three-part learning report series, RAND Europe provided a practical overview of online approaches to opinion gathering: idea generation and consensus exploring. Conducted on behalf of THIS Institute, the report looks at the above approaches, with practical guidance on available tools.
Idea generation and management
Idea generation and management involves collecting ideas from a group of experts or the wider community in order to solve issues or generate new ideas. Idea generation and management can be carried out on a large scale engaging with thousands or tens of thousands of participants.
Idea management platforms offer a digital social space to generate, discuss, refine and evaluate ideas. They have been used by private and public organisations (including NHS trusts) to engage staff and the public and generate ideas on how to improve products and processes. To encourage participation, these platforms can have a social networking look and feel and will sometimes host idea generating competitions.
Consensus exploration is a way to examine the degree to which people agree or disagree on a specific question or issue. This could also involve, in the case of consensus building, convergence of opinions. A variety of methods exist for exploring consensus, many of which are Delphi-based. These methods are usually carried out with fewer than a hundred participants.
Tools for consensus exploration are varied and range from free software to paid-for services. Tools for Delphi enable inviting participants, asking questions, and collecting results repeatedly in rounds. Tools for Real-time Delphi enable group results to be processed and fed back in ‘real-time’ so that respondents can update their responses immediately. Within healthcare settings, these tools have been used to understand: how services should be run, appropriate indicators of healthcare quality and suitable guidelines.
For this research, we conducted a rapid review of the literature and interviewed experts in the tools or methods of idea generation and consensus exploration.