Real-time Pressure from the Peers Work Equally Well as the Virtual Thing

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The research group structured a mathematical model of individual behaviour that potentially expected group responses across various conditions – one they expected other scientists would utilize to combat the notoriously troubling task of motivating extensive participation in scientific studies.

Maurizio Porfiri, lecturer of aerospace and mechanical engineering and the director of the Dynamical Systems lab at NYU Tandon, and Oded Nov, associate lecturer of technology innovation and management, created an experiment to identify whether virtual peer pressure could augment individual participation in a citizen science study they discovered in 2012, Brooklyn Atlantis. The panel of research comprises of Jeffrey Laut, a current NYU Ph.D. student, and Francesco Cappa, a student.

Figure 1: Virtual Peer-pressure encourages people to participate in an event
 

Citizen science projects trusted volunteers from the common public to support professional researchers by gathering and analysing data utilizing their smartphones or home computers. Familiar examples comprise novel projects tracking the motion of monarch butterflies, attempts to realize novel plants and even an online game anticipating users to identify a novel technique to fold protein structures.

Brooklyn Atlantis is a science based project assisted by the National Science Foundation that stimulates around a free robot crafted by Laut as a component of his dissertation. The instrumented phone robot caters as prototypes for water drones that Porfiri and Laut expected to commercialize through a current New York State Energy Research and Development Authority grant. The Gowanus Canal was patrolled by the robot, the notoriously polluted Brooklyn waterway, and Superfund site, transferring a regular passage of data on quality of water and temperature, as well as pictures both below and above the waterline.

Citizen researchers volunteer to witness the images and prepare ‘tags’ to realize objects in the photos that may comprise humans, specific species, debris or wildlife. The results reveal that pressure from a real-time peer can control the behaviour of a citizen scientist. The largest-functioning group of virtual users, the ones who tagged the most of the objects in Brooklyn Atlantis images – were those who witnessed a virtual peer that regularly outperformed them. Alternately, the team who witnessed a virtual peer that underperformed then subsidized lesser tags than any other team, comprising the peer-free control team.

The team whose real-time peer matched their own level of functionality also tagged more items than a control team, showcasing that although, the small presence of a peer results in enhanced performance.

Conclusion – The research made us learn the way to design a social participation system that can advantage from including social psychology research,” explains Nov. The scientists believe that such results can add to the expanding body of studies into how to augment engagement in citizen science projects.