Oxford startup Prolific takes on Amazon

2nd March 2017

New research supports the Oxford University Incubator startup’s challenge to Amazon Mechanical Turk’s dominance in sourcing participants for social science studies.

Prolific, formerly Prolific Academic, the Oxford University startup that links social scientists with research participants, has been cited in an independent scientific paper that highlights Prolific as a better quality source of participants than rival giant, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

In the paper, the participants on the Prolific platform were described as “less dishonest” and “more diverse” than Amazon Turk’s. In addition, Prolific participants produced data quality that was “comparable to Amazon Turk’s” and “higher” than rival platform, CrowdFlower.

The research validates Prolific’s raison d’être. The platform was founded by Ekaterina Damer and Phelim Bradley, both scientists at the time completing DPhils and PhDs at Oxford and Sheffield universities, who set up Prolific because they were frustrated by the difficulty in accessing quality data sources.

One of the startups to graduate from the Oxford University Innovation incubator programme, Prolific has experienced incredible growth since launch in April 2014. It has made it possible for researchers to collect more than one million unique responses in over 6,500 studies, and has proven popular among social scientists.

Prolific now works with more than 1,300 researchers from more than 300 academic institutions worldwide, including Cambridge University, London School of Economics, Yale and Stanford, to help them find the right participants fast. Prolific currently has a pool of 70,000 registered participants, which continues to expand.

Ekaterina Damer, co-founder of Prolific, said:

“Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is well known among social scientists, and has long been the ‘go-to’ option for finding research participants for studies, as it’s relatively cheap and the site boasts huge participant numbers.

“Unfortunately, we found that Amazon’s Mechanical Turk’s numbers were highly inflated and that the platform was very limited in what it could do. We built Prolific to provide a better solution.”

 

More details on Prolific can be found on their website, accessible here.

The full version of this release, which includes notes to editor, can be downloaded here.

The paper, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, can be found here.

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