A university has been granted £750,000 to study why people volunteer to take part in research projects.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has provided the funding for the three-year project headed by economist Joe Cox of the University of Portsmouth’s Business School.
Dr Cox said: “Hundreds of thousands of people all over the world are giving their time to help find a cure for cancer, or to better understand the nature of the universe, or patterns of global warming, but we don’t yet have a detailed understanding of the processes that drive these initiatives, which are more complex than they may first appear.
“The growth of the digital economy has dramatically affected the ways people interact with each other and engage in different activities, but little is known about the changing nature of volunteering and crowd-sourcing in this context. This grant will allow us to formulate new economic models to explain the choices, motivations and behaviours of digital volunteers.”
The project will also investigate ways in which volunteering can be optimised and sustained by the managers of these resources.
Dr Cox said the findings would be of interest to the voluntary sector as well as commercial projects which use crowd-sourcing.
He said: “Technology has made it possible for the average person on the street to make a real contribution towards our understanding of the universe, the modelling of climate change and the development of a cure for cancer. Our research will show how these initiatives can encourage more people to volunteer, which will help push the boundaries of scientific knowledge and create social value.”