COVID19 was the push I needed to take my research online
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.


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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!