Democratising Dutch decision-making for the Dutch Research Council

Enabling thousands of submissions via a navigable digital platform

Overview

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Challenge

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) is the national research council of the Netherlands. NWO funds thousands of top researchers at universities and institutes and steers the course of Dutch science by means of subsidies and research programmes. NWO promotes quality and innovation in science.

NWO organizes the National Research Agenda. This national initiative gives science and society a unique opportunity to contribute to the debate on important issues that will be researched in the next ten to twenty years, and to contribute ideas on widely recognized issues. The aim of the Dutch National Research Agenda is to ensure that scientists, companies and society work together to tackle current scientific challenges.

WORTH was tasked with devising a system that would:
- Allow a great number of people to contribute simultaneously via a navigable digital platform
- Filter essential data and absorb any major traffic spikes
- Focus on robustness and usability

The solution that WORTH built, from concept to its live launch on national television on Dutch talkshow show 'De Wereld Draait Door', ensured that 7,500 people were able to submit over 11,700 suggestions.

"The solution WORTH built for the National Science Agenda helped us to give a practical interpretation to our plans by providing thousands of people the opportunity to participate."

Prof. dr. Alexander H.G. Rinnooy Kan, chair of the National Science Agenda

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The approach

Focusing on usability - Despite a short lead time, we felt it was important to design a brand new solution. We recommended a structured database to store the submitted questions and to be able to analyze them in a simple way. We developed the new system based on existing, proven components.

Usability was our main starting point: the system had to be easy to use. After going live, people would register online and then enter the questions they thought worth investigating. To help them do that, we gave them guidelines for asking useful questions. We also developed a tool that warned users if a particular question had already been asked.


Using the right technologies - Because of the attention that was drawn to the National Science Agenda by Dutch talkshow 'De Wereld Draait Door', high traffic peaks were expected. To keep the site accessible during broadcasts, we selected and implemented a reliable, robust hosting solution, with the capacity to handle the peaks.

We also coordinated the work of a number of specialized partners. During the development process, we performed load and user tests and coordinated security tests, in order to ultimately deliver a reliable, usable and secure system.

Results

Providing a safe, secure and reliable digital platform - User testing as well as load and security tests were implemented to deliver a reliable, usable and secure solution.

Meeting client objective - NWO achieved its aim to fully involve the Dutch public in the National Science Agenda: 11,700 questions were submitted from companies, universities, scientists and the general public.

Providing a robust, scalable solution - 7,500 people were able to submit over 11,700 suggestions with fewer than twenty support requests.