Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Facts for Ideas for Good

Welcome back to Part 4 of the Toyota "Ideas for Good" contest here at OpenScientist.  We've talked about the basic rules, brainstormed a few times for interesting ideas, and have started narrowing down to some of the better ones.  Now it's time to start developing some facts to bolster the strongest ideas.
Looking at the judging criteria is a great place to start, and maximizing scores is obviously the goal for any entry.  But the more I think about the contest, the more I think we first need to focus laser-like on the statement of actual need.  I came to this conclusion after looking through the ideas posted on the gallery of existing ideas posted on the web site, and looking at the commercials Toyota is airing to promote the contest.  The one thing all these ideas have in common is their descriptions include a clear and demonstrable need for the technology. 

For example, let's quickly look at the idea for creating ventilation systems for tents to assist disaster victims, or the Wake Forest project analyzing THUMS data to help protect high school football players from traumatic injuries. None of these are really that creative/original (25% of the score) or necessarily that viable for prototyping (15%).  But they all demonstrate a high social need, and at 30% of the score this is the social relevance/benefit area is one contestants must emphasize to be competitive.

So, since demand for the technology clearly weighs heavily in the game creators minds, how can we maximize it?  Well I have a few suggestions that will be explored more in the coming weeks, and that I'm curious to hear your comments on (my fellow citizen scientists) as everything is developed.

  • Every idea considered for submission must display a demonstrated need.  Any that don't, but which are just cool ideas searching for a problem, must be taken off the table.  No matter how much it hurts to do so.
  • All brainstormed ideas we develop further should have a solid "statement of need" written to justify their inclusion.  Although this may not be copied verbatim into the final contest submission, it will inform the final language and will help us cull the large number of brainstormed ideas.
  • All statements of need should include documentable, reliable facts to back up the demand.  We need to show the judges concrete evidence that it is needed and to quantify for them how large the impact will be.
  • Final contenders for submission should be ranked by demonstrated need, and those scoring highest should receive the most development.  There is no use spending time on an idea expected to score significantly less on the most important ranking criterion.
With all this in mind I think I'll start going through our brainstorm lists and developing those statements of need. I'll also be scanning the web (and my trust hometown library) for facts that will help strengthen the submission. 

But feel free to help me.  Just join in with your comments below (and have fun)!