Community involvement

Currently Lookit is run by three people working at home during a pandemic. We had a description here of all the things we do, but really, enough said.

Ways all Lookit researchers contribute

1. Peer-to-peer support

We ask that everyone who goes through the tutorial helps to answer questions from other researchers, and works on improving any sections that were confusing!

2. Provide peer feedback on studies

Before submitting a study to Lookit, researchers gather peer feedback (see Study approval process). This is a quick and lightweight process, not scientific peer review, but it does a lot to improve the participant experience! As a researcher on Lookit, you will help to review other studies as well as posting your own for feedback.

3. Recruitment

Once you start running your study, you will need to actively recruit participants. There’s a shared Lookit participant pool, but we need everyone’s combined efforts to build it.

If you have programming experience (or employ someone who does)

Lookit is an open-source project, but struggles with the problem that relatively few of its primary stakeholders (developmental researchers) feel equipped to contribute to feature development. If you have experience programming in Python, the most helpful way to contribute is to Set up for local development on the Lookit codebase, take ownership of an issue in the lookit-api repo and make a PR with your implementation (and your unit tests ;) ).

Working Groups

In addition to the actions described above, individual researchers are organized into a variety of Working Groups that focus on specific challenges to build resources for the community.

The existence of the Working Groups has many advantages, including:

  • Formally recognizing the work that many people volunteer to do in the background, that might otherwise be invisible
  • Making sure we have a wide range of voices involved in generating ideas and making decisions about our shared platform, beyond just the small number of people on the Core Team
  • Providing a way for people to opt into the discussions they most want to be a part of so that (e.g.,) if you want to be involved with decisions about recruitment strategies you can be part of a group that does so, rather than decisions being made at unpredictable times and only by those who (e.g.,) happen to be paying attention to a general email listserv at that time.

Anyone involved with a current study on Lookit, or who is developing one, is very welcome to join a Working Group! We also have an expectation that any research team hosting a study on Lookit will have at least one member who is a member of at least one Working Group, with a flexible time commitment of about 2 hours/week. The person meeting this requirement for their research group should be a “main” member of the group, which will typically mean a lab manager, graduate student, or PI (not, e.g., an undergrad doing a small number of hours of lab work each week).

Here are the current working groups:

Best Practices for Video Chat Studies

The goal of this Working Group is to develop best practices (and, rarely, rules) about running video chat studies (also called “synchronous” studies, these are typically “Zoom” studies). Over the past couple of years, there have been many groups independently identifying great ways to do video chat studies, and we hope to discuss and iterate on what a diverse group of researchers have done. As we develop resources for best practices, members of Lookit (and others) may choose to follow them because they are ideas that have been refined over time by a large and diverse group of people, and also just because consistency can be inherently valuable (e.g., even if a practice is not inherently better than some alternative, being consistent with our participants can make things easier and more predictable for them). See a draft of some ideas here.

Recruitment (social media, etc.)

The goal of this Working Group is to increase the size and diversity of the participant pool. Examples of work might include producing posts for social media, contacting parenting blogs, and coordinating efforts from individual labs. In addition to balancing the goals of size and diversity, another pair of goals to balance will be exploitation vs. exploration (i.e., small tweaks to known recruitment methods vs. moonshots for much better solutions).

Eliciting and organizing feature feedback from researchers

The goal of this Working Group is to gather information from researchers in multiple ways (e.g., surveys, focus groups, monitoring of questions on Slack and GitHub issues) about potential new features for Lookit, and work towards prioritizing them. This requires synthesizing information about what would best benefit researchers and what is easiest for the programmers to implement, and so this group will work with the programmers as well.

Advise and support new Lookit researchers (“Researcher onboarding”)

The goal of this Working Group is to help new researchers who are designing their first Lookit study. This can involve creating additional tutorials/samples/documentation, providing 1-on-1 mentoring, and monitoring a Slack channel where new researchers ask questions.

Parent-facing “first 10 minutes”

The goal of this Working Group is to maximize the parent-facing experience, from finding Lookit to finishing the consent for the child’s first study. Example work might include revising the homepage and doing focus group (user experience) studies of naive parents navigating it, creating informational videos about what participation entails and instructions for participating (perhaps with help from the “assets” working group), and streamlining the informed consent process. An MIT usability & accessibility group may be available for support.

Producing creative assets (e.g., recruitment videos)

The goal of this Working Group is to produce a library of available pictures, videos, and audio. A primary use for these would be the “Recruitment” group, though it is also possible that creative assets might be used for other purposes (e.g., a library of stimuli available for studies, such as infant attention-getters and royalty-free cartoon pictures of many characters).

Researcher-facing “first 10 minutes”

The goal of this Working Group is to maximize the researcher-facing experience, from discovering Lookit to deciding whether or not it might be a good fit for their research. For example, this group might create a webpage that is directed towards PIs, to determine in 3-5 minutes whether joining Lookit might be a good use of a graduate student’s time. Another webpage might be directed towards graduate students, to get a sense of the types of research Lookit is a good fit for, and what types of skills would be necessary to conduct that research via Lookit. Much of this information already exists, but optimizing it for different audiences could make a big difference in the uptake of Lookit by research teams.

The A-Team

Named after a TV show about mercenaries for hire: “If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… the A-Team.” For Lookit, this Working Group will work on all of the miscellaneous tasks that are shorter term (so they don’t have their own working group) but totally essential for the development of Lookit. Maybe a couple of weeks working on legal and ethical issues to build a knowledge base for getting Lookit access agreement signed. And then the next project might be exploring non-monetary compensation for families (certificates? personalized information?). All skill sets welcome for a well-balanced group of problem solvers.