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Globalizing and crowdsourcing biomedical research.

TitleGlobalizing and crowdsourcing biomedical research.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsAfshinnekoo E, Ahsanuddin S, Mason CE
JournalBr Med Bull
Date Published2016 Dec
KeywordsBiomedical Research, Clinical Trials as Topic, Crowdsourcing, Humans, Precision Medicine, Research Support as Topic, Societies, Medical

INTRODUCTION OR BACKGROUND: Crowdfunding and crowdsourcing of medical research has emerged as a novel paradigm for many biomedical disciplines to rapidly collect, process and interpret data from high-throughput and high-dimensional experiments. The novelty and promise of these approaches have led to fundamental discoveries about RNA mechanisms, microbiome dynamics and even patient interpretation of test results. However, these methods require robust training protocols, uniform sampling methods and experimental rigor in order to be useful for subsequent research efforts. Executed correctly, crowdfunding and crowdsourcing can leverage public resources and engagement to generate support for scientific endeavors that would otherwise be impossible due to funding constraints and or the large number of participants needed for data collection.

SOURCES OF DATA: We conducted a comprehensive literature review of scientific studies that utilized crowdsourcing and crowdfunding to generate data. We also discuss our own experiences conducting citizen-science research initiatives (MetaSUB and PathoMap) in ensuring data robustness, educational outreach and public engagement.

AREAS OF AGREEMENT: We demonstrate the efficacy of crowdsourcing mechanisms for revolutionizing microbiome and metagenomic research to better elucidate the microbial and genetic dynamics of cities around the world (as well as non-urban areas). Crowdsourced studies have been able to create an improved and unprecedented ability to monitor, design and measure changes at the microbial and macroscopic scale. Thus, the use of crowdsourcing strategies has dramatically altered certain genomics research to create global citizen-science initiatives that reveal new discoveries about the world's genetic dynamics.

AREAS OF CONTROVERSY: The effectiveness of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing is largely dependent on the study design and methodology. One point of contention for the present discussion is the validity and scientific rigor of data that are generated by non-scientists. Selection bias, limited sample sizes and limitations for scientists in enforcing standardized protocols are all challenges for those who engage in citizen-science initiatives.

GROWING POINTS: Despite the aforementioned concerns, crowdsourced data allow for greater inroads into the field of personalized medicine, whereby community members take an active role in generating data about their personal and environmental health.

AREAS TIMELY FOR DEVELOPING RESEARCH: Crowdsourced viral and metagenomic studies are the next step in elucidating the genomic and epigenomic characterization of urban population health.

Alternate JournalBr. Med. Bull.
PubMed ID27941038