Open Source Tools and Standards to Facilitate the Reuse of Electronic Data Capture Instruments in Mental Health Research

Period of Performance: 01/15/2015 - 07/14/2015


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Prometheus Research
New Haven, CT 06510
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Electronic data capture (EDC) systems have increasingly replaced paper--based methods of collecting mental health research data. As EDC systems have proliferated, however, so has the number of incompatible formats for storing EDC instruments (form configurations). The lack of interoperability among EDC formats makes it difficult to reuse, share, or find previously configured instruments unless they were configured for the same EDC system. Currently, the primary approach to this problem is to manually reconfigure the instruments in the target EDC system, a highly inefficient use of human and financial resources. Ideally, each research instrument would need to be configured only once, would be stored in an easily accessible place for others to use, and would work seamlessly with its users'EDC tools. The proposed project will bring this ideal closer to reality by laying the groundwork for an interoperable ecosystem of mental health research instruments. The first step is to create the Portable Research Instrument Standard for Mental Health (PRISMH), an open metadata standard for representing mental health research instruments that does not depend on any EDC system or device (Aim 1). PRISMH will make it possible to develop software that can convert instruments between PRISMH and the formats used by four specific EDC systems: Research Electronic Data Capture (REDCap), Qualtrics, and Prometheus Research's EDC systems, RexEntry and RexSurvey (Aim 2). We will collaborate with the Center for Open Science (COS) to bundle PRISMH and the format conversion tools into an "add--on" module for the COS's free, web--based scientific collaboration platform, the Open Science Framework (OSF). This will connect PRISMH and the conversion tools to the OSF's existing infrastructure for finding, curating, and sharing collections of digital research artifacts, such a instrument configuration files (Aim 3). Finally, we will modify the EDC form--building tool embedded in RexDB, our web--based data management platform for mental health researchers, so users can search for accessible instrument configurations stored in OSF projects, import those of interest into RexDB for editing and reuse, and share locally--configured instruments with accessible OSF projects. The standards and tools that Prometheus Research and the COS will build through this project will have transformative potential for mental health research. It will give the mental health research community access to freely available tools that empower them to reuse, share, and find mental health research instruments, accelerating research by saving time, money, and frustration. Use of this network of standards and tools will remove critical bottlenecks in the execution of NIMH--funded research, increasing the NIH's and the public's return on investment while improving the ability of scientists to focus on collecting high--quality data. Finally, this project will improve Prometheus Research's commercialization potential by funding the development of features critical to a low--cost, self-service version of the RexDB that will be marketable to a broad segment of the research data management market.