Streamlining recruitment and data collection at the University of Newcastle

By Shaun Grady

Recruitment and data collection can be one of the most time-intensive aspects of clinical research, and the importance of using the right tools in the right way is key to gaining as much value as possible from this process. Natalie Wall, a PhD candidate from the FINDlab at the University of Newcastle and eResearch Trainer at Intersect, recognised the importance of this and engaged the expertise of Intersect eResearch Analyst, Shaun Grady, to assist in the design of a REDCap database to assist with her research project “Supporting autistic children to better understand facial emotion expressions”.

Under the supervision of Prof Ulli Schall, Honorary A/Prof Carmel Loughland and A/Prof Linda Campbell, Natalie’s research uses cognitive assessment, eye tracking, and electroencephalogram (EEG) across a cohort of autistic children, and a separate cohort of non-autistic children in order to develop and test the effectiveness of an iPad application aimed at supporting autistic children to recognise facially expressed emotions. 

Data Collection and Recruitment

Data was initially being collected via several methods in the initial project framework. A combination of Qualtrics, Microsoft Excel and paper-based surveys were planned for use to gather information about each participant at several time points during the recruitment and assessment process. This would lead to the research team needing to manage, collect and collate data in many different formats, before ultimately undertaking a lengthy data-joining process. 

REDCap Use

Following attendance at Intersect’s Data Capture and Surveys with REDCap training, Natalie and Shaun worked together to move the project into REDCap. An ideal tool for studies requiring both survey data and manual input by researchers, REDCap’s features including eConsent, branching logic and automated survey invitations to be used in order to streamline recruitment and data collection resulting in significant time savings for Natalie and her team. “Working with Shaun to synthesise all the information we gather throughout the project has ensured that there is no missing data and enables us to have participant information securely stored in one place.” 

Of course, a research project is only ready for launch after thorough testing, which was happily provided by one of the youngest members of the Intersect family, Shaun’s 7-year-old son, Noah.

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