If you are an academic researcher in the field of psychology, behavioral medicine, social science or public health looking to run an ecological momentary assessment or intervention study then you need to find a way to collect those data within the timeframe and budget dictated by your grant. In that past that might have meant hiring a developer or hobbling together a system with open-source software.
For this study you are looking for a solution that is going to work without you having to do any hiring or figuring out how various pieces of software function or might talk to each other. You’re looking for something that is seamless and allows you and your research team to focus on research not on the technical headaches of running an EMA or EMI study.
You’ve worked hard to get to where you are in your career. Grant funding is very competitive. You have an idea for a study that is innovative and will be a significant contribution to the current literature. You know if you can get this study completed successfully you will be able to apply for larger grants to do even more innovative work in the future. You’re excited about the intersection of your field with technology and want to lead the wave of research that is leveraging this new technology to make a positive impact for the populations you work with. If this is you then you are in the right place.
Receiving a grant is a big responsibility. You are accountable for delivering on what you promised. You have to hire the right people, find the right measures, recruit participants, keep them engaged, make sure your data are secure and oversee all the analysis and writing. It’s a lot of moving parts! The last thing you need on top of all that is trying to figure out how to make various pieces of unfamiliar or old software work so you can collect your data.
You may have learned this the hard way in the past. That’s part of the learning curve the entire field has been going through as we’ve been bridging the gap between academic research and ever-changing consumer technology. Behavior change research methods have undergone a revolution in the last ten years as Smartphones, wearable and connected devices have become more and more available. It’s understandable that this has caused some turbulence and created opportunities for developers who maybe want to help but don’t understand the needs of a grant funded research study.
As the Smartphone assisted EMA and EMI field has been developing researchers have tried all sorts of things to capture data from people as they go about their daily lives – some have worked, some….well… not so much! The promise of being able to collect not only self-report data but also objective contextual data and physiological data in parallel is alluring but to a researcher without a technical background the task can seem overwhelming.
The truth is that you don’t need to custom build an app and backend database to run your EMA or EMI study.
And the fact is that even if your grant budget and timeline allowed you to do a custom build by the time you’ve built the thing it’s out of date anyway and you’ll have to build another one for the next study.
The long grant funding cycle doesn’t match up with the rate of development of consumer technology. They are two completely different markets with different drivers. Trying to use your research study to straddle those two canoes is going to leave you soaking wet!
We’re not the only people around dedicated to solving this particular problem for researchers but we’re the ones innovating the fastest to keep up with the consumer tech market so you don’t have to.