Information for researchers

at other universities


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We are focused right now on carefully building up the online platform’s infrastructure and establishing best practices, but we are also excited to discuss potential collaborations with people as we grow. In general, we see many ways in which having more researchers involved is a win/win for both researchers and participants. Here are four examples:

(1) Researchers can invite more families to participate

Researchers often do an entire study with participants at just a few locations. For example, a study might include only children at a nearby museum, a nearby school, and children who travel to the university’s child development lab. In contrast, a video chat study can include children from around the world. With more researchers involved, all researchers can potentially reach more participants due to the benefits of (e.g.,) local knowledge for recruitment from multiple geographic areas, and diverse language skills.

(2) Multi-site collaborations

A virtual lab makes multi-site collaborations far easier.

This includes both typical collaborations and (friendly) “adversarial collaborations” between researchers with different predictions about the results a study will find. An additional type of collaboration is packaging together studies from different groups that are pursuing very different types of research, allowing each study to include a larger number of children but reducing order effects of which study is done first (compared to having multiple studies from a single lab). From the participant perspective, a session that includes a diverse range of studies is likely to be more interesting, and provides an opportunity to help advance developmental science in multiple sub-areas!

(3) Researchers can use new types of study designs

There are studies that can be run easily with video chat that would be difficult or impossible without it. For example, researchers often worry that they might accidentally influence children’s choices (e.g., a study might investigate when children prefer a fair distributions over unfair distributions, and the researcher might worry about subtly implying to children which answer is “correct”). A researcher using video chat can play sound or show a video or picture without hearing or seeing it herself. This allows a researcher to present options to a child (e.g., fair vs. unfair distributions) without knowing which option is which, and so eliminating any possibility for subtly influencing children’s answers. Likewise, a standardized online platform allows researchers to more easily run each other’s studies, allowing for the potential of separating the roles of who designs a study from who runs it.

(4) Researchers can share their exact study procedure

One of the challenges in developmental research is describing exactly what happens in a study, so that other scientists can build on each other’s work. With a video chat study, a researcher can easily run other researchers as “participants” in a study to show the exact experience, or record a sample video of what it looks like (such a video recording would have an adult collaborator “acting” in the role of the child, since we audio record–but do not video record–the study sessions with real participants). Such transparency is useful not only for things like replication, but also for helping researchers to learn design tips and best practices from each other, leading to better science and better participant experience in future studies!