Methodological Challenge: Addressing Bots in Online Research - NAPNAP

Methodological Challenge: Addressing Bots in Online Research

Methodological Challenge: Addressing Bots in Online Research

With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting in-person research studies, internet-based research, including social media recruitment and data collection methods, has substantially grown in popularity. Although there are many benefits associated with internet-based research methods, this recruitment method is vulnerable to nefarious intruders, such as bots, which can lead to fraudulent data and dramatically threaten the validity of research findings. A recent article published in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care examined examples of research studies that encountered bots, also known as automated form fillers, and procedures used to address them. The article provides strategies researchers can utilize to mitigate the risks often associated with internet-based recruitment methods in the future.

Bots are computer programs used to complete online forms randomly and systematically. When bots complete research forms, fraudulent data may be submitted to the research study. By sharing bot-related experiences and knowledge, future researchers will be better prepared to employ different data protection methodologies when using social media and the internet for participant recruitment.

“As nurse researchers, it is important that we provide examples of our experiences with bots in our studies and present strategies for avoiding fraudulent participants so that other researchers can learn from our experiences,” said article coauthor Patricia Lawrence, PhD.

The authors of this paper made several recommendations to researchers interested in strengthening their study design. Such suggestions included using advanced software features to prevent duplicate participants, not providing public survey links and checking the study data often for potential inconsistencies, missing data, and concerning patterns or answers that need to be clarified. By taking such precautions, researchers can ensure better data integrity.

The article “­Methodological Challenge: Addressing Bots in Online Research” was published in the May/June edition of the Journal of Pediatric Health Care and can be accessed here.

June 22, 2023

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