Background: Crowdsourcing contests (also called innovation challenges, innovation contests, and inducement prize contests) can be used to solicit multisectoral feedback on health programs and design public health campaigns. They consist of organizing a steering committee, soliciting contributions, engaging the community, judging contributions, recognizing a subset of contributors, and sharing with the community.
Objective: This scoping review describes crowdsourcing contests by stage, examines ethical problems at each stage, and proposes potential ways of mitigating risk.
Methods: Our analysis was anchored in the specific example of a crowdsourcing contest that our team organized to solicit videos promoting condom use in China. The purpose of this contest was to create compelling 1-min videos to promote condom use. We used a scoping review to examine the existing ethical literature on crowdsourcing to help identify and frame ethical concerns at each stage.
Results: Crowdsourcing has a group of individuals solve a problem and then share the solution with the public. Crowdsourcing contests provide an opportunity for community engagement at each stage: organizing, soliciting, promoting, judging, recognizing, and sharing. Crowdsourcing poses several ethical concerns: organizing—potential for excluding community voices; soliciting—potential for overly narrow participation; promoting—potential for divulging confidential information; judging—potential for biased evaluation; recognizing—potential for insufficient recognition of the finalist; and sharing—potential for the solution to not be implemented or widely disseminated.
Conclusions: Crowdsourcing contests can be effective and engaging public health tools but also introduce potential ethical problems. We present methods for the responsible conduct of crowdsourcing contests.