#MyScienceInquiry: Crowdsourcing ideas for a committee inquiry

The Science and Technology Committee recently put out an open call to the public and scientific community: what should we investigate next? This open call became #MyScienceInquiry, a campaign to crowdsource their next inquiry.

#MyScienceInquiry asked the public which developing area of science and technology needed to be looked into. After gathering over 70 ideas digitally, 9 individuals pitched their inquiry proposal in person to MPs. Eventually, Stephanie Mathisen’s suggestion to look into algorithms in decision-making was launched as a new inquiry.

So, how did it work?

Making it easier for the public to get involved

We wanted to make it as easy as possible to submit an idea. By lowering the barrier to entry, we hoped to encourage those who hadn’t engaged with the Committee before to do feel able to contribute. We therefore welcomed submissions across different platforms and in different formats:

  • video submissions, posted with the hashtag #MyScienceInquiry on Twitter
  • text submissions on the Committee’s website

Video for promotion, text for submission

The majority of the submissions came in via the Committee’s website as written submissions, but this was to be expected. It’s much quicker, easier and not to mention less pressure to contribute in writing than to put yourself in front of the camera. The videos, on the other hand, acted as the flagship form of engagement, highly visible to others. We used this to raise the profile of the campaign and drive the conversation around the Committee’s future inquiries.

Firstly, we created our own videos to promote the campaign, such as our Spot (below). This gave background to the inquiry and explained exactly what we were after.

This encouraged some video submissions, which double-up as a highly effective method of further promoting the campaign. Submissions are visually engaging, and the committee shared them on their own account to increase the engagement even further.

However, as we've found before, creating and submitting a video requires time, skill and a bit of confidence too. Submitting text is a lot simpler, especially for people who are busy, like a lot of the people we were trying to reach. The videos therefore provided a highly visible form of promotion, while the text submissions - of which we received over 50 - provided the major source of contributions.



Creating a positive feedback loop

A key aim of the campaign was to establish an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders – demonstrating that Parliament is listening and responding to the public, and hopefully encouraging people to engage with the Committee again in the future. An example of this was the Committee's Twitter moment, where we collated submissions as a way of broadcasting them and demonstrating that we had received and were using them.

The campaign culminated in nine individuals presenting their ideas to the Committee in Parliament, raising the level of engagement from submitting a brief idea online, to presenting that in person to a committee of MPs. It was a great example of stepping-up engagement from online to offline. When the nine participants came in, we collated this into a short video to further communicate back the spiral of upward engagement within our online community.

Keeping the conversation

With the release of the report – presented in an interactive format using Adobe’s Spark platform –  we produced another video tying #MyScienceInquiry to the new inquiry into algorithms, showing the idea growing from Stephanie’s suggestion to the Committee, to the inquiry being launched. To date #MyScienceInquiry videos have been viewed over 21,000 times on Twitter, and the campaign gave members of the public a more tangible stake in the Committee’s activities.

Through effective promotion and communication, those who engaged with the campaign will be encouraged to follow and engage with the work of the Committee in the future. #MyScienceInquiry was successful in starting a conversation between the Committee and the public about its future work, and created an increasingly engaged audience not only aware of the new inquiries launched, but who have a substantial stake in the Committee’s inquiries.

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