Crowdsourcing and community collections

Crowd playing trumpet in the street. Public Domain

Crowdsourcing is increasingly used in research contexts to create or enhance digital data. Inviting people outside a project or team to contribute to research can also be a powerful means for outreach and engagement.

Crowdsourcing usually involves asking members of the public to perform certain tasks, such as look at a picture and provide information about what is in it, transcribe a text, or classify an item according to certain criteria. Multiple examples of such “people-powered” research projects can be found on the Zooniverse platform. It can, of course, also be used to source other kinds of input, such as ideas, or for generating solutions to a problem. Community Collection is a kind of crowdsourcing where a digital collection is created from material shared by members of the public or a particular group or community. Examples of community collections in Oxford are the Great War Archive (family memorabilia from the First World War), Woruldhord (educational material for Old English/Anglo Saxon) and Lockdown 2020 (lockdown experiences from the University of Oxford).

Although crowdsourcing can help you process a lot of data more quickly than the time it would take you to do it yourself, crowdsourcing projects are not to be thought of as a way to get cheap labour, nor as something threatening the existence of skilled academic researchers. Setting up and running a crowdsourcing project will require time and effort, but done in the right way, it can bring benefit to all participants, within and outside academia.

Oxford has a crowdfunding hub that researchers can use to source funding: OxReach. It is managed by a team at Oxford University Innovation, who can be contacted at

The Research Support team have experience of planning, setting up, and running crowdsourcing projects and are happy to offer advice, guidance and support. If you would like to talk further about crowdsourcing or community collection work for research, engagement or outreach, please email We can also advice if you are considering trying crowdfunding your research or are interested in running  collaborative creation event. Information about community collections in particular can also be found on our RunCoCo website.

Posted in | Comments Off on Crowdsourcing and community collections

Comments are closed.