Traditional social science research tends to skew toward “WEIRD” subjects—that is, toward the Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic—according to four Harvard researchers who are trying to expand the reach of modern data collection and analysis.

Pioneers in the field of crowdsourced, Web-based research, they offered a vision of large-scale citizen science experiments in a November 14 panel discussion titled “Taking Research Out Into the Wild.” Part of the Computer Science Colloquium series, the event was hosted by the Center for Research on Computation and Society (CRCS) at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

It is not unusual for academics to involve the public in research—think of the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count and the Harvard-led Personal Genome Project. With the advent of the web and social media, however, researchers can now learn from massive swaths of the world population, instantly, without ever bringing them into the lab. And the payoffs for both parties can be significant.

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