Two growing trends in research may have potential to overcome some problems often encountered through traditional methods.
The use of social media sites as sources of data is one of these trends. A recent University of Minnesota study used the photo-sharing site Flickr to examine how water quality is related to the number of visitors at different lakes in Minnesota and Iowa. This method was less expensive and much faster than a traditional survey might have been.
A second new method of research is to crowdsource data by enlisting the help of volunteers, often via the Internet. With this method, researchers can categorize and analyze data at a rate much faster than that of a typical research team. Several universities have begun using this method.
Some of these research trends have been met with “unwarranted skepticism,” according to a University researcher interviewed by the Minnesota Daily last week.
While it’s true that bias or lack of training may affect these methods, such issues can usually be accounted for and mitigated by submitting the results to external review boards.
The University has already demonstrated the benefits of both crowdsourced data and social media research in several studies, and both of these methods are likely to keep growing. The University has the potential to be a leader and do groundbreaking things with these kinds of research, and we encourage the institution to take advantage of that opportunity while it lasts.