Crowdsourcing is revolutionising how social scientists conduct their research, but there are pitfalls in collecting data from online marketplaces. A research project at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) to investigate the quality of data collected from the public via crowdsourcing has just been awarded a € 250,000 Veni grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The researcher in charge is Dr Gabriele Paolacci, an assistant professor of marketing at RSM.

Veni grants are awarded to promising researchers up to three years after completing their doctoral thesis, and can fund up to three years of work to develop ideas and gather data. The maximum grant is €250,000 per researcher.


The internet is making the social sciences faster and more open, explained Dr Paolacci. “I’m a fan and an early adopter of crowdsourcing as a data collection tool. But my previous research has also identified some unique threats to data validity, such as the presence of “professional participants”. While most crowdsourced participants are generally attentive and honest, the lack of control over the data collection process brings new and serious concerns. I’m thrilled that NWO recognised the importance of these challenges and decided to fund my future investigations into them,” he said. “It’s a great honour to receive this award.”


Collecting data

Dr Paolacci, part of the Department of Marketing Management at RSM, will scrutinise the ways in which data is collected from human participants. “Data collection across the social sciences is dramatically changing, moving progressively away from university laboratories and towards the internet. Online marketplaces offer researchers the opportunity to crowdsource data collection – to recruit and compensate people for participating in research studies,” he said.


Crowdsourcing research

“While this makes it cheaper and faster to reach a more demographically diverse sample of respondents, the lack of control in the recruitment and execution stages of data collections brings new challenges for data validity.” Dr Paolacci’s research will quantify and qualify these challenges, exploring ways for researchers to overcome them and produce more valid findings. His study will incorporate three subprojects, the results of the first contributing to the design of the next, and so on.

“My ultimate goal is to contribute to better science by improving the quality of online research,” he said.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top-ranked business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers.

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