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!

Jo Evershed

Jo is the CEO and co-founder of Cauldron and Gorilla. Her mission is to provide behavioural scientists with the tools needed to improve the scale and impact of the evidence-based interventions that benefit society.