Open Community Research (OCR) for social change - Is it feasible?

Our proposal is to research two parallel issues with one experiment:
• Feasibility of open community research; and
• nudges that encourage smoking cessation.

We are proposing to use a new research tool that has its origins in exposing US election interference. The commercial research tool is able to identify change in belief and extract nudges that will impact societal change. Because nudging for “good” can raise a number of social and ethical considerations, we are proposing a communal project in which the Prolific community participates in all aspects of the test. The results will be made available to the Prolific community each week and their input sought. We will also share the results with the appropriate government agencies as well as potential media outlets such as BBC People Fixing the World in an effort to not only research for good but to do good.


Belief, defined as statements that individuals hold to be true, impacts almost every aspect of a person’s interaction with a product or issue. People rarely weigh all facts and make a decision. Rather, they rely on others, form a belief and then selectively pick facts that support their belief. It is not just conduct that can be influenced by a belief but physical health. The placebo effect (an individual’s belief) has been shown to have an actual physical effect. Therefore, if the Prolific community can impact belief, we can impact actual change in society.

Measuring belief, however, is not easy. Belief is dynamic. People filter their thoughts and often times are not even self-aware enough to know why the engage in certain conduct. For example surveys, while very effective, tend to illicit an individual’s aspirational self, who they would like to be as opposed to who they are. As recently confirmed by Valesceau et al., prediction error is linearly correlated to belief change. We will therefore focus on generating, collecting and processing prediction error to identify change in belief.

We will be employing a longitudinal research tool that measures change in belief across 15 metrics. Using the Prolific system, we will recruit a panel of 100-125 people who will interact with the data collection tool each week. The same panel members will answer the same 15 questions each week on the same day. By using both the Prolific and Veriphix systems, we will segregate any PII from the study and allow the measurement of belief and extraction and testing of nudges to be done with no PII and in full compliance with GDPR, as well as proposed EU AI regulations. We will only be using ethical data (paid, consenting and anonymous to us and you).

Open Source Research Test – Can we work as a group for good?

We will hold an opening event via Zoom with all those in the Prolific community that wish to participate. As a group, we will decide on:
o Topic (e.g., smoking)
o Demographic
o Decide on related metrics to measure (e.g., smoking vs. economic prosperity, smoking vs. stress, etc.)

Each panel will run for 4 weeks. Data will be collected each week on the same day (e.g., Wednesdays). The data will be processed, a standard report prepared and shared with the group via the Prolific forum the following day (e.g., Thursdays). Each week we will then conduct an hour long Zoom debrief (e.g., each Friday) and then decide as a group whether and what to test the following week. Any results published, will be published as a group and include all those who participated.

Reducing the number of people who smoke

According to the WHO 28.7% of people in Europe smoke tobacco. The health and social costs to smoking are high and reduction in the number of people who smoke tobacco could have a meaningful impact. We therefore propose to focus this project on identifying and testing nudges that can be used to help reduce the number of smokers in Europe.


If we use the full amount of the grant, we can likely run 8 weeks of testing which can be one country with two consecutive groups, or two 4 week of testing on different countries or a different issue. Depending on the demographic, 4 weeks of data from 100-person panels including run between $4k-$5k.


Our proposal could (in theory) be combined with some of the other research proposals.

-John Fuisz (