How we can help researchers with data

Illustration of scientists collecting data from subjects.

Leyla Ismayilova, Assistant Professor, SSA, needed to get precise information about how her work is being used by families in Kazakhstan.

In 2015, Leyla Ismayilova, Assistant Professor, SSA joined us for an Enhancing Research with Mobile workshop. Ismayilova ‘s research agenda focuses on developing culturally congruent interventions to reduce sexual and substance use risk behaviors among children and youth vulnerable to them. To that end, she incorporates computerized multimedia technologies in the delivery of preventive interventions to engage youth and measure intervention fidelity (or, the extent to which the intervention is delivered as it was intended). As Principal Investigator of a NIDA-funded study, Ismayilova is testing a multimedia family-based intervention designed to reduce sexual and drug-related risks among susceptible adolescents. These adolescents live in communities highly affected by heroin trade and use in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

At the workshop, Professor Ismayilova discussed her research and the need to get precise information about how the multimedia intervention is being used by families. Were parents and adolescents just clicking through to finish up the sessions or were people taking their time to complete all interactive activities and roles plays? What were the most common options chosen from multiple choice questions, especially when it comes to family support (e.g., name three people you can ask for help)? And how well were users learning the lessons?

When Google Analytics isn't an option

Normally, we track this type of data using Google Analytics. Since this was a stand-alone Flash app administered in areas with inconsistent internet connectivity, Web Services worked with Professor Ismayilova’s Estonia-based Flash developers to translate her key questions into appropriate log files for future analysis. In Kazakhstan, Professor Ismayilova and her team conducted the interventions, gathered the logs, and uploaded them into Google Sheets.

From there, Professor Ismayilova, Eleni Gaveras (an SSA graduate student), and Cornelia Bailey (Web Services Strategic Innovation Consultant) worked together to translate the raw data into a series of spreadsheets mapping back to the original questions. In some cases, the data needed to be SPSS-friendly. In other cases, results could be inferred with the data. Because Google Spreadsheets allows for seamless collaboration, the team could work together to locate data problems and revise certain questions easily.

What's next?

The results provide feasibility and usability data and demonstrate whether computerized interventions are feasible in middle-income countries, where online health preventive interventions are novel. The findings will be described in peer-reviewed publications, and usability data from the three pilot sessions will inform development of the future intervention.