COVID19 was the push I needed to take my research online
Good science needs prop­er­ly powered studies.  Ten years into the repli­ca­tion crisis, we know this more than ever.  Behav­iour­al science can’t progress while we have serious doubts about the gen­er­al­is­abil­i­ty of our findings.

We know part of the solu­tion is larger samples, but getting par­tic­i­pants to the lab is a pain. Some might even say it’s the worst bit of running a behav­iour­al study.   It might be pos­si­ble to get 100 psy­chol­o­gy under­grad­u­ates to your lab one by one, in a month of labou­ri­ous face-to-face testing.  But it feels like such a inef­fi­cient use of time.  Is there any­thing more frus­trat­ing than waiting for a par­tic­i­pant who doesn’t show up? And fur­ther­more, 100 under­grad­u­ates are just going to be WEIRD (Western, Edu­cat­ed, Indus­tri­alised, Rich, Demo­c­ra­t­ic), right?  What would Review­er 2 say?


Take Research Online

One solu­tion is to take research online.  Once research can be done online, a wide range of third party recruit­ment ser­vices can be used to source diverse par­tic­i­pants quickly.  It’s becomes easy to collect data from 500 people over a lunch break!

But, his­tor­i­cal­ly, taking behav­iour­al research online hasn’t been as easy as taking survey research online.  Qual­i­ta­tive research has been blessed with great tools like Survey Monkey or Qualtrics.  These are easy to set up and con­fig­ure without any pro­gram­ming.  In con­trast, behav­iour­al researchers are still pro­gram­ming tasks in MATLAB or EPrime.

While some researchers love pro­gram­ming, others tell us “I want to focus on the science, not the pro­gram­ming.”  Even fewer want to embark on setting up a server, man­ag­ing a data­base and getting their head around complex infor­ma­tion secu­ri­ty stan­dards as well as draft­ing a privacy policy and com­ply­ing with GDPR.  That can feel too much like being a soft­ware devel­op­er and not a behav­iour­al scientist.

Experiment Builders

That’s where online experiment builders come in.  Com­pa­nies pro­vid­ing fully hosted, fully sup­port­ed and fully com­pli­ant experiment builders provide behav­iour­al sci­en­tists with the spe­cial­ist tools they need to focus on the science and not the pro­gram­ming.  Good news!  There are now a variety of offer­ings avail­able.  They vary in terms of their power, flex­i­bil­i­ty, ease-of-use, data quality val­i­da­tion, level of support, pro­vi­sion of hosting and legal com­pli­ance.  And of course price varies depend­ing on the quality of the offer­ing.  Some researchers worry that using an experiment builder will result in lower quality data, but actu­al­ly they tend to be more robust than writing code.

Writing reli­able code is hard, and — more impor­tant­ly — testing it for timing accu­ra­cy is expen­sive and time con­sum­ing.  Experiment builders have done the hard work of val­i­dat­ing their tool for you.  So it’s easier and faster for most people to get high accu­ra­cy and pre­ci­sion with an experiment builder than by writing code.   If that’s a worry you have, then read this article which will discuss this issue in more detail and alle­vi­ate your concerns.

At Gorilla, we’ve aimed to provide a tool that easy enough for stu­dents to use and pow­er­ful enough for pro­fes­sion­al researchers.  We want to set you free so you can focus on cutting edge science.  Our solu­tion is fully hosted, fully sup­port­ed, val­i­dat­ed and com­pli­ant so that you can focus your effort on the sci­en­tif­ic considerations.

We hear from our users that while the repli­ca­tion crisis was a gentle pull to take research online, COVID19 was a massive shove!  Start­ing in early 2020 COVID19 dis­rupt­ed behav­iour­al research across the whole globe.  Since then it’s simply been too dan­ger­ous to have par­tic­i­pants come into the lab for testing, and con­se­quent­ly lots of behav­iour­al research has been grounded.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Modern experiment builders are now pow­er­ful enough for a wide range of behav­iour­al research.  Once you’ve got over the initial hump of learn­ing a new tool and a new way of running exper­i­ments, you’ll be relieved to see high quality data coming in quickly and easily.  You’ll feel relieved that you’ve solved your COVID19 crisis as well as made steps to more repro­ducible science.

A Dream Come True

If that sounds like a dream come true, you may now faced with having to choose between one of the many tools avail­able.  We’ve made a buyers guide to help you struc­ture your deci­sion making and come to a deci­sion that you can have con­fi­dence in.  The right tools for one person isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly the right tool for another.

I don’t mind which tool you choose as long as you make a deci­sion and take your research online. So, my chal­lenge to you is to choose the right tools for your research, start col­lect­ing data online, and get your research up and running again so that you can get back to the reward­ing activ­i­ty of sci­en­tif­ic discovery!