Terminology

To enhance the clarity of the documentation, we start by defining some terminology used throughout this site.

Participants

Ethica users are grouped into Participants and Researchers. Participants, or respondents, are individuals who have consented to provide their anonymized data to one or more studies. Ethica can capture participants data from different sources, for example via responding to a single survey, or by providing responses to a series of surveys (experience sampling), or by providing data via sensors such as GPS, Bluetooth Beacons, or smart watches.

Participants can:

  • Use the Ethica app on their Android, iPhone, or browser to participate in a study.

But they cannot:

  • Access the Researcher Dashboard to create and manage a new study.
  • Access any information from other participants (unless explicitly allowed by the researcher).
  • Modify the configuration of their study.

Registration & App Access

Participants can register in Ethica either using the smartphone app (for Android and iPhone) or via Ethica's website. When signing up via the smartphone app, their account will be registered as Participant by default. You cannot create a Researcher account using the Ethica app. If they sign up using Ethica's website, they will be asked whether they are a Researcher or a Participant, where they should identify themselves as a Participant.

During the signup, the participant is asked to enter their email address and choose a password. These credentials allow the participant to access their account and their data in the future from any other device. If privacy is a concern here, participants can be instructed to use a catch-all email address. After the signup, or when they log in with their current credentials, they will remain logged in until they elect to sign out. Ethica also offers a password recovery option, where if a participant forgets their password, they can request a password reset link to be emailed to them.

Participants can also use their credentials to log in via another smartphone (e.g., when they switch phones) or via a browser on any device. In this case, all their data will be synchronized with the new device immediately. For example, if a participant was expected to receive a survey, they will receive it on their new device. This allows participants to continue with the study without any interruption after they switch from their phone to their personal computer, or if they have to switch phones.

Participant ID

When participants join Ethica they are assigned a unique ID which is used across Ethica's user interface to refer to this participant. This way, each participant is uniquely identified in the system, while their name and other personal information are kept hidden. Participants can find out their ID by opening the Ethica app and navigating to the Settings page. At the bottom of the Ethica Settings page, they can find their ID.

Researchers

Researchers are study staff members who are involved in study administration or analysis in any capacity. They can design the study, configure different components in Ethica, screen and enroll participants, monitor adherence, and analyze study data. Researchers use Ethica through a web-based dashboard, referred to as the Researcher Dashboard. Through that dashboard, they can create a new study, give access to other team members, define roles and permissions, enroll participants, collect, and visualize the data, refining the study where if, and when required.

Researchers can:

  • Access the Researcher Dashboard to start and manage a new study.
  • Invite other researchers to join their study.
  • Access de-identifies data from participants who joined their study.

But they cannot:

  • Participate in any study as a participant.
  • Login into Ethica app. These apps are intended for participants.

Researchers can only register in Ethica through the website, via an Internet browser. Ethica smartphone app does not offer the option to register as a researcher, in order to keep the interface of the app simple for participants. If a researcher mistakenly creates a participant account, they cannot change their account type later, and their only option would be deleting your account and joining Ethica again.

Ethica Study

The first step of using Ethica is by creating a Study. Studies are the main building blocks of Ethica, and they resemble an observational research study as closely as possible.

Study Period

A study usually starts and ends at a certain time (for example, depending on the funding requirement), which is specified via the Study Period. The study period's start time can set to now, or anytime in the future. The end time can be anytime after the start time, or it can be set to open-ended. You can enroll participants before the start time, but their data collection will not start until the start time. You cannot enroll any new participant after the end time, nor you can collect any data from existing participants after the end time.

Participation Duration

When participants join your study, they can be enrolled in the study for the whole time between the start and end of the Study Period, or any subset of it. This is referred to as the Participation Duration, which is the number of days a given participant is expected to be part of the study. Participation for a given participant starts on the same date that she joins the study, and ends after the number of days specified in the participation duration is passed.

Participation duration also can be open-ended. In this case, the participant will remain in the study indefinitely or until the study period's end date.

Data Sources

While participants are actively participating in a study, they provide data related to their behavior, attitude, beliefs, and exposures. This data is collected from one or more Data Sources, as configured in the study they are participating. Examples of data sources include:

  • Sensors embedded in mobile devices or wearables like smart watches or wristbands, such as GPS data, accelerometery data, or heart-rate data.
  • Electronically generated data such as records of applications used or phone calls made.
  • Data generated from their account in other applications such as their social media accounts.
  • Surveys, self-reports, and cognitive tasks, whether started by the participant or prompted automatically based on a specific context.

Surveys

Survey is a special type of Data Source in which the participant provides data to their study by responding to a set of survey questions, or completing a cognitive task.

Similar to other survey tools, Ethica Survey also allows creating surveys which consist of one or more pages, where each page has one or more questions, or cognitive tasks. Surveys can also have branching, skip patterns, dynamic questions, randomization, and other features expected in surveys.

Triggering Logic

A major differentiator of Ethica Survey is that a given survey should specify how and when it should be triggered, which is referred to as Triggering Logic. This is very helpful when designing a longitudinal study, as you can specify at what stage of the participation, the participant should receive a given survey, how much time they should have to respond to the survey, and how they should be notified about the survey, and reminded to complete it.

Each survey can have one or more triggering logic, as described below.

Eligibility Screening

Eligibility Screening triggering logic specifies a survey should be triggered when the participant requests to join the study. They contain a set of questions, and an eligibility criteria based on the responses to those questions. The participant will be considered eligible to join the study if their responses to the survey questions are evaluated to True using the eligibility criteria

User Triggered

User-Triggered triggering logic specifies that the user should be able to start the survey anytime they want and respond to it. When a survey has this type of triggering logic, Ethica will create a button in the home screen of the user's app, with the specified caption. This button allows the user to respond to the survey anytime they want, as many times as they want.

Time Triggered

Time Triggered triggering logic specifies that the survey should be triggered and prompted to the participant based on a specific time table. Examples are 4 hours after the start of the study, or every Monday between 9 am to 10 am, or on Jun. 1st, 2019, 12:30 pm. The participant will not see any sign of this survey prior to the triggering time. The app will notify them when the time arrives, and reminds them to complete the survey within the specified time.

Proximity Triggered

Proximity Triggered triggering logic specifies a survey is triggered based on the proximity of the participant to a given Bluetooth beacon. This survey will use the data collected from the Bluetooth Beacon data source. You can learn more about this triggering logic here.

Dropout

Dropout Triggered triggering logic specifies that the survey should be prompted when the participant decides to drop out of the study. Questions asked here allows capturing a better insight on why the participant left the study and what can be improved to increase the retention rate.

Response Sessions

When a survey is triggered to a given participant it creates a Session. Participants can either respond to all questions and complete that session, or they can leave the session until it expires, or they can explicitly indicate they don't want to respond and therefore cancel the session. In either case, the session will be uploaded to the Ethica servers.

A given survey can be triggered one or more times, depending on the configuration of it's triggering logic. Each trigger in turn will be associated to a session, which will hold the responses provided by the participant.

Notifications

Some triggering logics described above, such as proximity-triggered or time-triggered, can trigger their survey even when the participant is not interacting with the app. This requires a way to notify participants about the newly available survey, so they can open the survey and respond to it.

Each survey defines a set of Notifications which describes how the participant should be notified and asked to complete the survey. A notification can be either sent as an app notification to their smartphone, or via text messages (SMS), or as an email. A survey can have more than one notification, each from one of these types.