Triggering Logic

Triggering Logic, or TL for short, for a survey specifies when the survey should be prompted to the participant. Ethica supports 5 types of triggering logic:

  • Eligibility TL specifies the survey is intended to screen prospective participants.
  • User TL specifies the participant decides when and how often to start the survey and respond to it.
  • Time TL specifies the survey should be prompted based on a certain time schedule .
  • Proximity TL specifies data from Bluetooth Beacons determine when the survey should be prompted.
  • Dropout TL specifies the survey should be prompted when the participant decides to drop out of the study.

A given survey can have one or more Triggering Logic of any of the types specified above, with a few exceptions. For example, you can have a survey with the following combinations:

  • One User TL and one Time TL. This survey will be prompted on certain times, and also user can start the survey anytime they want.
  • One User TL and multiple Time TL. This survey will be prompted on the union of all the times specified by all the Time TLs, and also user can start the survey anytime they want.
  • One Proximity TL and one Time TL. This survey will be prompted when a specific Beacon contact is detected, and also on certain times specified by the Time TL.
  • One Eligibility TL. This survey will be prompted when a prospective participant tries to join the study.

Each Triggering Logic operates fully independently from all other Triggering Logics in the same survey. For each survey, Ethica processes each of it's Triggering Logics and prompts the survey to the participant as requested by each Triggering Logic. Not all combinations of the Triggering Logic types are allowed. The two exceptions are:

  • If you add an Eligibility TL to your survey, you cannot add any other Triggering Logic to it.
  • Surveys with a Dropout TL cannot have any other Triggering Logic.

Criteria

In the Criteria section we described how each survey can have a criteria which specifies whether the survey is enabled or disabled. Further, Ethica allows you to specify a Criteria for each Triggering Logic. You can think of the Survey Criteria as the main switch which enables or disables the survey for a given participant, while the TL Criteria is the switch which enables or disables that particular Triggering Logic. For a survey to be prompted via a given TL, both the Survey Criteria should be evaluated to True, and the TL Criteria should also be evaluated to True.

For example, assume you have a survey with a survey criteria which is referred to as SC. This survey has two Triggering Logics as follow:

  • User TL with a TL criteria referred to as User_TLC.
  • Time TL with a TL criteria referred to as Time_TLC.

Further, assume you enroll three participants in your study. For the first one, SC is evaluated to False. Therefore, this survey will not be prompted to this participant, regardless of the evaluation result of User_TLC and Time_TLC. This participant will not be able to respond to this survey.

For the second participant, SC is evaluated to True, User_TLC is also evaluated to True, but Time_TLC is evaluated to False. In this case, the participant will be able to open the Ethica app and respond to the survey anytime they want (as defined in the behavior of the Time TL), but the Ethica app will not prompt the survey to him at the times specified by the Time TL.

For the third participant, all three criteria, i.e. SC, Time_TLC, and User_TLC, is evaluated to True. Therefore, the participant can respond to the survey anytime she wants, and also the Ethica app will prompt the survey to the participant at the specified times.

Manually Triggering a Survey

While you can use Triggering Logics to specify when Ethica should allow the participant to respond to a survey, there might be times that you want to prompt the survey right away to one or more participants. Ethica allows you to manually trigger a survey when necessary. In this case, Ethica will send a message to the participant's app using Cloud Messaging, asking the app to prompt the survey to the participant right away. In order to do this:

  1. Go to the Researcher Dashboard.
  2. From the left panel select your study, then select Design, and then select Surveys.
  3. Here you can see all surveys defined for your study. You can expand any survey to see the related actions.
  4. Click on the Release Now button on the right side to open the Release Survey dialog.

Release Survey Dialog

  1. Pick the participants you want to send the survey to, and Release.

Note that you can only send surveys to participants who are currently active in the study. If you choose a participant who is already dropped out of the study, or who has finished their participation, the survey will not be send to them. If none of the participants you chose were actively participating in the study, Ethica will not send the survey to any of them.

Survey Session

When a survey is prompted to the participant, regardless of via which of the Triggering Logics listed above, Ethica app will create a Session for it. This session will hold the information about the prompted survey, responses provided by the participant so far, and other related metadata.

A given survey session contains 2 time values in its metadata: Scheduled Time, and Record Time. Scheduled Time specifies the time that the survey was scheduled to be prompted. This time is known in advance for survey prompts via Time TL. For prompts via other Triggering Logic types, this is set to the time Ethica app starts the session. For example, if the survey contains a User TL, and the participant starts the survey, the time of starting the survey is used as the Scheduled Time.

Record Time specifies the time the survey session was closed and recorded to be uploaded to the Ethica server. A survey session can be closed for one of the following reasons:

  • Submitted indicates the participant completed the survey and submitted it.
  • Expired indicates the survey was not responded in time, so Ethica automatically closed the session and uploaded it to the server.
  • Canceled indicates the participant did not want to complete the survey and canceled it.
  • Blocked indicates the session was blocked by another active session from the same survey and could not be prompted (more details below).

When a session is submitted, it means the participant has responded to all mandatory questions in the survey, and she might have responded to optional questions as well. For expired and canceled sessions, the participant might have responded to none or any number of questions in the survey. Regardless, they did not complete it before the survey session was closed. Blocked sessions indicate the survey was not even prompted to the participant, and therefore, there is no response to any of the survey questions for that particular session.

Expiry Time

Each survey can have an Expiry Time, which specifies how long after the Scheduled Time Ethica should wait for the participant to complete the survey and submit it. If you set the survey to never expire, Ethica will keep the survey session open indefinitely until the participant either completes the survey or cancels it. If you set the survey to expire after a certain duration, Ethica will wait for that duration after the Scheduled Time. If the participant does not complete the survey nor cancels it within this period, Ethica will close the session as Expired and uploads it to the server.

Blocked Sessions

At any given time, a survey can only have one open session. You cannot prompt a survey multiple times to a participant and waiting for her to respond to them one by one. If there is already an open session for a given survey, and the survey tries to open another session, the second session will be closed immediately and marked as Blocked. For example, assume you define a survey with a Time TL and configure it to be prompted at 8 am and 9 am. At 8 am Ethica will prompt the survey to the participant, opens a new session, and waits for the participant to respond to the survey. At 9 am, Ethica tries to prompt the survey again. If the participant has completed or canceled the survey before 9 am, Ethica will prompt the survey again at 9 am as expected, and opens a new session for it.

If the participant does not respond or cancel the survey by 9 am, and the expiry time of the survey is 30 minutes, the session scheduled at 8 am will be marked as Expired by 8:30 am. Therefore, Ethica app can prompt the survey again at 9 am and open a new session for it. But if the expiry time of the survey is set to 2 hours, the survey cannot be prompted at 9 am, as there is already an active session started at 8 am. In this case, Ethica will create a new session with the Scheduled Time set to 9 am, and immediately closes it without prompting it to the participant, and marks it as Blocked.

Note that if you have multiple surveys in your study, each can have up to one open session. Therefore, at any given time the participant can have multiple open sessions to respond to.

Eligibility TL

If you intend to ask this survey from prospective participants and use their responses to determine whether they are eligibile to join this study or not, you can add Eligibility TL to it. This Triggering Logic has a few differences with others:

  • You can have only one survey with this type of Triggering Logic in your study.
  • If you have a survey with this type of TL, you cannot add other TLs to it. Similarly, if you have other TLs added to your survey, you cannot also add Eligibility TL to it.
  • You can not add notifications to surveys with Eligibility TL, as you don't need to notify people about the survey. This survey is presented when the participant is actively working with the Ethica app.
  • You cannot define a TL Criteria for Eligibility TL.

When adding Eligibility TL to your survey, you need to specify an eligibility criteria which is used to determine whether the prospective participant is eligibile to join your study or not:

Adding Eligibility Screening Triggering Logic to the Survey

If the criteria is evaluated to True, the individual proceeds to the next step and is presented with the consent form. Otherwise, she or he is shown a message indicating they are not eligible for that study.

The image below shows an example survey used for participant screening:

Accessing Surveys Page in Ethica Researcher Dashboard

User TL

A User TL instructs Ethica to add a button to the study's home page with the specified title, such that every time the participant taps on that button, a new session for the survey is started and presented to the participant. In order to add a User TL, you only need to specify the caption of the button. You also can specify the TL Criteria, in which case the criteria should be evaluated to True in order for Ethica to show the button. If you specify the TL Criteria and it evaluates to False, the given participant will not see the button related to this Triggering Logic.

Adding User Triggering Logic to the Survey

Note that Ethica will not notify participants when the survey is prompted via a Triggering Logic of this type, as the participant is actively interacting with the app and has initiated the survey.

The following image shows how surveys with User TL are presented in the study home page in the Ethica app:

User Triggering Logic Presentation in the Ethica App

Time TL

A Time TL specifies a time schedule based on which the survey is prompted to the participant. The following image shows the dialog for adding a new Time TL to your survey:

Time Triggering Logic for Ethica Survey

While the dialog may seem long and complex, you basically only need to specify when should be the first prompt, if/how the TL should be repeated subsequently, and when these repetitions should end.

You start by specifying when is the first time that this TL should prompt the survey to the participants. This is presented as the duration after the Base Time. The Base Time can be one of the following:

  • Study Registration Time refers to the exact date and time when a given participant joined your study.
  • Study Registration Date refers to the beginning of the date in which the participant joined your study.

You also enter the lower bound and upper bound of the period time window from which a random time should be selected. You can specify the lower and upper bound values as days, hours, minutes, and seconds past the Base Time. Ethica will add the relative lower and upper bound to the base time to calculate the calendar date and time for the lower and upper bound, and then uses the specified randomization method to draw an exact time within that period.

For example, assume you set the Base Time to Study Registration Time, and lower and upper bound to 0d 02:00:00 and 0d 03:30:00 respectively, and your participant joins on June 1st 1:30 pm. Ethica will prompt the survey at a random time between June 1st 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm.

Alternatively, assume you set the Base Time to Study Registration Date, and lower and upper bound to 2d 09:00:00 and 2d 09:00:00 respectively, and your participant joins on June 1st 1:30 pm. Ethica will prompt the survey exactly at June 3rd 9:00 am.

Note that if you set the Base Time to Study Registration Date, the first date on which the participant joins your study is considered day 0, and is not a complete date as you cannot prompt surveys at any hour of the day during that date. For example, consider a Time TL where the Base Time is set to Study Registration Date, and the lower and upper bound are set to 0d 17:00:00 and 0d 18:30:00, respectively. The following list describes when the participant should expect to receive the survey depending on her participation date and time:

  • If a participant joins on Jun. 1st before 5 pm, she will receive the survey at some point between Jun. 1st 5 pm and Jun. 1st 6:30 pm.
  • If a participant joins on Jun. 1st after 5 pm but before 6:30 pm, she will receive the survey at some point in the time she has joined (e.g. 5:30 pm) and Jun. 1st 6:30 pm.
  • If a participant joins on Jun. 1st between 6:30 pm to Jun. 2nd midnight, she will not receive the first trigger of the survey. She still can receive the subsequent repetitions, if the survey is expected to be repeated. This is because the time window specified for this survey is already passed (5 pm to 6:30 pm of the participation date).

After defining the time of the first prompt, you can decide whether your Time TL should be repeated or not. A Time TL can be repeated daily, weekly, monthly, or annually. You also need to specify when the repetition should end. You can choose to never end the repetition, end it after a certain number of occurrences, or end it on a certain date. Note that if you choose to end on a certain date, the date here is relative to the base time you have chosen above.

At the end, you can specify the criteria which determines for which participants the survey is enabled or disabled. You also can choose how the participant should be notified when the survey is prompted via this Time TL. By default, Ethica will notify the participant using all the Notifications currently defined for this survey. You can choose to only use a subset of the notifications by selecting the Use only a subset of notifications check box.

You can add one or more Time TL to your survey. If you add more than one, Ethica will prompt the survey based on the union of all schedules defined for that survey.


Previous versions of Ethica offered Baseline survey which would prompt the survey as soon as the participant joined the study. Now you can achieve the same results by adding a Time TL to your survey, set the Base Time to Study Registration Time, and set both the lower and upper bound to 0d 00:00:00

Proximity TL

Assuming your study is already configured to record participants' interactions with each other or with other physical objects using Bluetooth Beacons, the Proximity TL allows you to prompt the survey when a certain proximity with certain attributes has started or has ended. Please refer to the Bluetooth Beacon page for the definition and details on some of the terminologies used below.

The following image shows the dialog for adding a new Proximity TL to your survey:

Adding Proximity Triggering Logic to your Survey

In this dialog you specify what should be the team and role ID of the visiting beacon which is related to this Proximity TL. You can also specify whether the survey should be prompted when the beacon of interest is visited, or after it's departed given a minimum contact duration. Further, you can specify how long apart should be two sessions from this Triggering Logic.

The Received Signal Strength Indicator filter, or RSSI filter, allows you to specify how strong should be the signal of a visiting beacon in order to be considered for this Proximity TL. As the signal strength is commonly used as an indicator of the distance, you can use this option to specify how far the participant should be from the visiting beacon.

Lastly, as described in the Time TL section, the TL Criteria allows you to specify when this Proximity TL should be enabled or disabled, and the Notifications allow you to determine how and when the participants should be notified or reminded when the survey is prompted.

Dropout TL

The Dropout TL specifies that survey should be prompted when the participant decides to drop out of the study. Participants can do so by selecting the related option in the Ethica app, as shown in the image below:

Dropping out of the Study from the Ethica App

Participants can always leave the study by simply uninstalling Ethica app from their phone. It's not technically feasible to detect this, and therefore they will not receive the dropout survey in this case.

You can define Dropout surveys to understand what made participants to decide to drop out of the study, e.g. the study was too much of a burden, they were concerned about their privacy, etc. Ethica will ask these questions when participants confirm their decision on leaving. Note that like any other survey, participants can cancel the dropout survey if they prefer. Regardless, they will be dropped out of the study.

Similar to the Eligibility TL:

  • You can have only one survey with this type of Triggering Logic in your study.
  • If you have a survey with this type of TL, you cannot add other TLs to it. Similarly, if you have other TLs added to your survey, you cannot also add Dropout TL to it.
  • You can not add notifications to surveys with Dropout TL, as you don't need to notify people about the survey. This survey is presented when the participant is actively working with the Ethica app.