Ethics. Research. Community.

Studies on the Use of the Site

EthicShare provides many services and features, but we also conduct research on the site's use and functionality. Our user research is twofold in its objectives: the first is to better understand the needs of the scholarly community for which the website is intended: undergraduate and graduate students and faculty working in the fields of practical and applied ethics. The second is to study more generally the mechanisms that encourage community participation in an online environment devoted to scholarly research and collaboration. 

In working to accomplish the first objective, the EthicShare team has captured the attitudes, needs, and research challenges of a selected segment of the bioethics community through site visits at all EthicShare partner institutions and through a survey of over 90 bioethics faculty members, research associates, post-docs, and graduate students. The purpose of the site visits and survey was to engage in an iterative process to gauge bioethics scholars’ attitudes about existing content, systems for information retrieval, social networking features, community participation within online environments, and to elicit overall feedback on EthicShare project goals.

User testing has been another way the EthicShare team has worked towards the first objective, and involves regular beta testing of site features. Testers are drawn from a pool of bioethics scholars from the University of Minnesota and around North America.  The EthicShare site has also been tested in the University of Minnesota Usability Lab. In addition to these smaller methods, large‐scale feedback cycles will be employed in which 150‐200 bioethics scholars and graduate students nationwide will be asked to view the website, test features, and provide feedback.

To achieve the second research objective, we have formulated an experimental design process for testing the most effective means of introducing and encouraging use of EthicShare’s collaborative and community‐based features. As a site that is built around easy‐to‐use social networking technologies that help users navigate a rich research resource, EthicShare will test how social web tools can foster community and engagement to provide a model for future research communities. We will develop mechanisms to motivate and measure different forms of community participation, from submitting comments, to evaluating the quality of a resource, to contributing content.

If you are interested in either opting out of or opting in the studies that we conduct in EthicShare, please send an email to: help@ethicshare.org.