Ethica aims to bring the power of smartphones and wearables to scientific research, and enable researchers to use technology in their studies. Research studies differ greatly, and depending on the domain, the target demographic, and many other factors, each researcher makes different choices during the study design. Ethica is designed to be fully configurable and match the specific needs of the study as closely as possible. Throughout the following documents, we describe the details of how Ethica works, and how it can be configured to match your study design.
Ethica for Android and iOS
Ethica provides a native mobile application for Android (available via Google Play Store) and iOS (available via Apple App Store). Participants can download the Ethica app on their smartphone, and use that to join your study.
Ethica for iOS supports iOS version 10 and above, which is reported to covers 95% of active iPhone devices. Ethica Android supports Android version 4.0.3 and above (API version 15+) which covers 99.7% of Android devices. While we acknowledge the likelihood of some participants with old smartphones not being able to download Ethica on their device, we believe the possibility of this causing enrollment challenges or introducing any selection bias is negligible.
Studies in Ethica
Studies are the primary building blocks of Ethica. We define a study as "performing observation on a sample of participants selected from a target demographic". We assume the observation is being done either by automatically collecting data from different sources (e.g. sensors) or through surveys and self-reports. The data collection can last as long as necessary for each participant. As part of defining a study, you can specify the types of data you need to collect, and the period of data collection.
Each study also has a certain timeline, specified by the following elements:
- Study period: determines when the study should start and when it's expected to end. By default, study's start date is set to the date the study was created. You can assign a later start date to your study, in which case the study operations does not start until the day you have specified. A study can also have a specific end date, or it can be set as open-ended. Ethica will stop all study-related operations on participants' devices on the end date.
- Participation duration: determines the number of days a given participant is expected to be part of the study. Participation period for a given participant starts on the same date that she joins the study, and ends after the number of days specified here. Participation duration also can be open-ended, which is useful for longitudinal surveillance-based studies.
Observations in a research study in Ethica is done by collecting data from a set of data sources. Examples of data sources include:
- Sensors embedded in mobile devices or wearables like smart watches or wristbands.
- Electronically generated data such as records of applications used or calls made.
- Self-reports, whether started by the user or prompted automatically based on a specific context.
Ethica provides many commonly used data sources out of the box, such as self-reports and survey responses, GPS, motion sensors, and environmental sensors. You also can define your own data source to collect data that is specific to your study, while taking advantage of other options that Ethica provides. As part of the study definition, you select one or more data sources you need to collect from, the durations and conditions under which that data source should be collected, and Ethica will manage the rest.
Surveys are an important source of data in many studies. You can create surveys in Ethica using the Survey Editor for the following purposes:
- Eligibility screening: As the name implies, Ethica will use this survey to decide whether a given user is eligible to join the study. If provided, Ethica will ask these questions prior to allowing the participant to join in the study, and only directs participant to consent form stage if they provide expected answers.
- Baseline survey: This survey will be asked immediately after participant provided consent and joined the study. It usually includes questions that should be asked only once such as demographic information.
- Exit survey: Assuming your study allows participant drop out through the app, you can use this survey to capture participant's opinion right before they drop out of the study. This provides you with a better insight on what can be improved to increase the retention rate.
- Generic surveys: These are the surveys which are asked during the course of the study, such as ecological momentary assessments (EMAs) or user-initiated self-reports. They can be prompted in one of the following ways:
- User-triggered: This allows the user to initiate the survey anytime they want. Ethica app will create a button for each user-triggered survey, with the caption that you specify. Participants can press the button on their app to start the survey.
- Scheduled trigger: These prompts are triggered using a specific schedule. An example is "Every Monday morning at a randomly selected time between 9 am to noon, for 4 weeks".
- Proximity trigger: These prompts are triggered based on the proximity to a given Bluetooth beacon. Ethica supports collecting data on participants' proximity to other participants, or other objects tagged with a Bluetooth beacon. This type of survey will be triggered when a proximity with certain attributes is detected.
- Advanced trigger: This allows prompting the survey based on a more sophisticated logic which potentially incorporates data from sensors as well. An example is using GPS data to prompt the survey based on specific geofences, or using motion sensors to trigger surveys when the participant is detected to be active or sedentary
Due to technical restrictions, Advanced Trigger logics for the survey is only supported on Android devices at the moment.
In addition to different triggering logic mentioned above, each survey also can be triggered through the dashboard by the members of the research team. They can select a survey and a subset of participants, and release the survey to their device. As soon as the selected participants are online (or right away, if they are currently online), they receive the survey. You can read more about surveys in Ethica under Surveys help section.