“Josh Bongard and Paul Hines, professors in UVM’s College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, and their students, set out to discover if volunteers who visited two different websites could pose, refine, and answer questions of each other — that could effectively predict the volunteers’ body weight and home electricity use.
The experiment, the first of its kind, was a success: the self-directed questions and answers by visitors to the websites led to computer models that effectively predict user’s monthly electricity consumption and body mass index. […]
But the UVM team primarily sees their new approach as potentially helping to accelerate the process of scientific discovery. The need for expert involvement — in shaping, say, what questions to ask on a survey or what variable to change to optimize an engineering design — “can become a bottleneck to new insights,” the scientists write.
“We’re looking for an experimental platform where, instead of waiting to read a journal article every year about what’s been learned about obesity,” Bongard says, “a research site could be changing and updating new findings constantly as people add their questions and insights.” (Joshua E. Brown, University of Vermont)