• Alex Buxton

What is Citizen Science?

One of the things that has come out of the current Covid-19 crisis is the need for people everywhere to be involved in science.  It is not only researchers in universities that can contribute.

Our Language Explorer project is currently asking parents and children around the UK to help the researchers in the team to collect data. We are asking children aged four to eight to retell a story about a search for treasure to help us understand more about their language. We need 600 children to do this so we can see what words and grammar, for example, children use so that it can inform a language assessment to be used by speech and language therapists when they evaluate the language of children referred to their services. When we receive the data from people around the country the research associates at Newcastle University will help in analysing the data to help the machine learning work take place. The researchers hope that we will understand how the children who have participated have used language in three different tasks - retelling a story; answer questions about the story and repeating some phrases.

We are working hard to try to get the data to represent children from all parts of the country so that it covers a range of socio-economic groups. We are also trying to gather data from children evenly across the age groups that we are looking at - from four-year-olds to eight-year-olds.  We are also checking which languages children speak at home and whether they have a known disability. We’ll keep you posted on the project. If you are keen to help, please share the project with parents of children around the UK.  If you have any questions, drop us an email.


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The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation's largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR funds, supports and delivers high-quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care. Engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research. Attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future. Invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services. Partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy. The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR supports applied health research for the direct and primary benefit of people in low- and middle-income countries, using UK aid from the UK government.
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