BigQuery, Wikidata & AgreeList — idea

Before I start coding, I would like your opinion. What follows is an idea:

Story telling was the most important way to share knowledge for thousands of years — before writing was invented — so our brains evolved to be influenced by stories. As Conor Neil explains, many times we are still “more easily persuaded by one clear and concrete anecdote than by data and expert statistical analysis”. He says that, “an anecdote is a one off. It is not data. It is not science. It is dangerous”.

This made me think about how this relates to our work with AgreeList. With AgreeList, we are creating a ‘platform for informed opinions’ that gathers the opinions of leading experts and influencers and gives a consensus view on issues of key importance. Our first issue was ‘Brexit’ where we collected the opinions of 377 opinion-makers on the impact of Brexit to the UK economy, immigration, politics, and education, and built a consensus view to inform the public during the referendum. In other words, we believe in the value of informed opinions over anecdotes. And the data of who agrees on what and why can help us to find what to believe. E.g. if NASA, Obama, the Pope and a friend of mine who knows more about global warming than me think that it’s real and we should do more to tackle it, I agree. See more about this on my previous post: AgreeList & The biggest problem in the world. Hopefully, Conor Neil would agree that what we are doing is important.

With the Brexit referendum over, we now turn our attention to other important topics. One might be Genetic Modified Organisms (GMO). More than 100 Nobel laureates signed a letter endorsing GMOs and challenging the environmental NGO Greenpeace to halt its anti-GMO campaigns to prevent the introduction of potentially life saving options for the world’s poor. Now, we could do some quick research and see who else agrees and disagrees, creating a similar page as we did regarding Brexit.

However, we’d like to try something different this time with (for example) the GMO topic. We’re considering storing AgreeList’s data of who agrees and disagrees as a public data set on Google Cloud and linking it to Wikidata (Wikipedia’s structured database) which contains background info on public figures. This would enable anyone to ask questions such as: Tell me the people who studied at MIT — or at my university — who agree on GMOs. And what percentage agrees or disagrees on GMO? And stats per profession, country or university?

I’d like to know what you think of this idea. Is it worth doing? And if so, who would be most interested? Journalists? Think tanks? What issues other than GMOs would you like to see on AgreeList?

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