Online meeting: (How) can we move our community-engaged research online? PART II

− 4 min read

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

The summary of the first part of the online meeting on 28 May can be accessed here.

Sometimes answering questions only raises more questions, as we found out during our previous meeting about moving community-engaged research online. Therefore, we decided to organise a follow-up session to allow researchers and support staff to discuss specific questions that they are facing in doing community-research online. Four researchers shared specific questions, namely: 1) how to involve vulnerable citizens in online research?; 2) how to recruit a representative sample of the population through online recruitment; 3) how can we share research results online in a safe environment?; 4) how to do online and offline interviews? The advice received on these four subjects are summarised below:

Involving vulnerable citizens

Challenge: Karin van Leersum is investigating what kind of support or technologies can help to improve the health and lives of people, especially those considered as vulnerable citizens. Her challenge is how to get into contact with these citizens who are less reachable online and how to involve them in her research project.


  • Involve local stakeholders, such as informal caregivers (Platform Mantelzorg Limburg; Marja Veenstra); make them the first contact point.
  • Have a look at the way other platforms work, such as Steffi Helpt, 1Minuut Zorginnovatie (Smartglass), and Pharos.
  • Set up a buddy system, in which each participant is asked to invite another person. These buddies can also help each other related to technical issues for the online research.
  • Ask volunteers or students (UM or Young Universities for the Future of Europe) for help with your research.
  • Involve libraries that often come into contact with different vulnerable groups through language centres (in Dutch: Taalhuizen).
  • Write down all the lessons learned related to doing online research involving vulnerable citizens, as the gathered experience can be very useful for others in the future.

Recruiting a representative sample

Challenge: Eslam Nofal is looking for ways to involve and engage citizens in investigating and communicating the shared history of the Euregio Meuse-Rhine. He is looking for advice on how to recruit a representative sample of the society to participate in an online workshop. Eslam explained that normally, they would approach people through municipalities, who are asking people to join the research via their social media or email-list. However, not everyone would like to participate in an online meeting.


  • Get in contact with people who are also working across borders, such as a research group at UM working on rare diseases or another research project with senior communities in the Euregion Meuse-Rhine.
  • Get in touch with existing platforms such as burgerpanels/Flycatcher, Interreg, and the Institute for Transnational and Euregional cross border cooperation and Mobility (ITEM), who already have experience with transnational research.
  • Keep in mind that for some people it is actually easier to join in an online meeting compared to an offline meeting.
  • When you post an announcement on social media, make sure to share it in public settings and not only with friends. This will allow your message to reach more people and to be distributed further. More specifically, mention that you are missing a certain population (e.g. young people), and ask a few people from that target population to share your post.
  • Post your research question on the Sharing is Caring group on Facebook.

Sharing the results of your results in a safe environment

Challenge: Marieke Hopman has reached the last stages of a sensitive research project and is looking for a meaningful yet safe way to share her findings online with local actors and communities.


  • Create a closed forum on your research website that can be reserved for more private (and anonymous) discussions.
  • Beware of confidentiality concerns regarding online discussions, especially if the information is highly sensitive or even considered illegal. Everyone joining in the conversation may be at very high risk, and written informed consent is thus crucial. Often, confidentiality clauses issued by online platforms are not confidential, as authorities can sometimes sneak in, and IP addresses are easy to obtain. Avoid putting people at risk as much as possible.
  • In some cases, people seem to prefer talking online instead of offline, even though they are aware of the risk.
  • Have a look at an upcoming event organised by Mondiaal Maastricht that includes a live-recorded video-session where people can type questions.

Online and offline interviews

Challenge: Esther Schutgens is doing research among pregnant women, their partners, and health professionals. Does anyone have any experience with conducting online and offline interviews, especially concerning the rules and regulations set by the Dutch government?


  • Use a recorder from the University.
  • Do not use Zoom for collecting sensitive data, as this platform is not completely safe.
  • You can use SURFcall, as recommended by the University.
  • Ask your interviewees which platform they prefer.
  • More tips and tricks about doing interviews online can be found in the summary of the previous meeting.

General question: How do you know that you have found the ‘right’ participant in an online context?

Advice: This question is always difficult to answer, even in an offline setting. Your sample should be large enough, and you can get an impression of your sample through additional conversations or follow-up interviews.

Do you want to be involved in our platform? Sign up for the newsletter here and check our social media. Do you have more questions? Feel free to send them to