Springer Nature: Engagement Information

We created this page for those who would like to understand more about what the Unsung Heroes work for Springer Nature (BioMed Central) measures and hopes to achieve.

As we created the unsung hero campaign, we reviewed the lives of so many incredible scientists. Although linked by their amazing achievements, these scientists were hugely diverse; such different people dealing with the world in such different ways. At CrowdCat that’s what we do for companies and organisations, help them understand the diversity of their audience so they can better serve them.

Unsung heroes will hopefully help BioMed Central to further understand the diversity of their authors and readers, and through that understanding, play an even more powerful role in helping researchers communicate their work.


First, we measured personalities

The rapid-fire questions at the start of Unsung Heroes are almost standard personality test questions. Personality has been shown scientifically to have 5 traits which operate relatively independently to define a unique overall personality (these are sometimes referred to as the Big 5). Personality is relatively stable over time with about 50% contributed genetically and the other 50% interestingly through our non-familial relationships i.e. our peer interactions. As our peers and role in the world changes, so our personality slowly shifts.

At CrowdCat we are more interested in the dynamic way personality acts at a cognitive regulation and social structural level. Multiple processes of organisation create soft groupings of people with similar beliefs, approaches and personality traits within large social systems e.g. the scientific community. It’s not about trying to tightly define a single person’s behaviour, it’s about being able understand in general how the diversity of different reseachers contribute to their community.

We understood that participants did not have the time to take a full personality test which would take an hour, so through statistical modelling we worked out the key personality elements that most strongly relate authors to other researchers with similar perspectives. It’s never perfect, so throughout Unsung Heroes we will be continuously refining how we measure personality, iteratively understanding these relationships better.


Second, we measured what’s important to authors

The theme of “what makes a good scientist” defines not just a scientists own aspirations but also how they evaluate the people around them. As we researched opinions we discovered there was a wide agreement on the positive characteristics that make up a good scientist, from creativity to prioritisation of goals. The relative importance of these characteristics however was highly varied and reflected very individual value systems.

We reduced the characteristics down to 13 themes. For an individual however, putting them into a perfect precedence order is time consuming and creating a reasonably accurate absolute strength score for all 13 is nearly impossible. The series of slider interactions within Unsung Heroes makes that process much simpler and more accurate: It’s quick and intuitive to arrange the 4 or 5 traits in relative importance; the sliders themselves move in statistically derived ways that allow us to build the most accurate model of absolute scores.

By comparing key personality elements and the scoring generated from the sliders we start to be able to see the soft groupings of types of researchers that make up the community. Through those groupings, we can start to understand how different elements think, feel and contribute to the community around them.


Lastly, we measured how scientists organise the world

Some of the latest research has shown that the organisation of ideas as tested through for instance complex computer interactions, are reflected in the relative correlations of our actual brain activity. Put another way, the way we relate things in our minds has an actual and measurable physical basis in our brains.

Extending this research, we discovered that behaviour can be better predicted from the correlations and interactions between brain activity patterns rather than the relative strengths of those patterns. Put psychologically, more than the strength of any individual idea or belief, our behaviour is the result of subtle effects caused by how we organise and combine ideas.

Unsung Heroes measures how scientists map ideas through two key interactions, the drag and drop surfaces and the pair matching exercise. It’s hard to describe how we build the map from this data, but essentially, we are working out the organisation of the top 9 associations with being a good scientist.

Our research has also shown us that the way we organise ideas is ultimately loosely related to our personality. Unsung Heroes hopes to uncover those relationships.

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