Try Out New (and Free) Software for Variable Recoding and Harmonization: QuickCharmStats 1.1 and CharmStats Pro 1.0

Guest post by Dr. Kristi Winters, CharmStats Project Manager, GESIS Data Archive for the Social Sciences

Do you have variables to harmonize for statistical analysis or as part of a large scale study’s data preparation and documentation? There are new, free, and open-source software solutions available that can speed the process of variable harmonization as well as preserve variable-, question- and study-level metadata for you. These programs generate harmonization syntax in multiple statistical languages and generate reports or even codebooks to quickly publish your work in a readable format.

The first product is designed for small scale research (under 100 variables to be harmonized) such as publishing an article or producing a report. QuickCharmStats (QCS) was designed to reduce the time and effort researchers spend harmonizing and recoding variables in preparation for statistical analysis. The second product, CharmStats Pro was designed for larger research projects and for national and international research teams to centralize, document and process the harmonization documentation process.

QuickCharmStats

mint-quick-charmstats-javaQuickCharmStats 1.1 (QCS) was designed for researchers who want to quickly and easily create recoding syntax for use in statistical analysis. It allows you to import the necessary metadata information from SPSS and Stat/Transfer. Once the metadata are imported you can search for the variables you need, import them into your project and quickly produce the syntax you need to harmonize variables in SPSS and Stata.

QCS 1.1 has two further features: Reports and Graphs. The report feature allows you to choose from Templates and instantly create an .html file based on the information and metadata in your project. Save your documentation and bibliographical information, your notes with information on your coding decisions, as well as the harmonization syntax. Share your report with others at anytime, anywhere, or to post it online as a reference. The graph feature provides an image of your harmonization.  These can be saved as .jpegs and used in presentations or included as part of your documentation.

CharmStats Pro

charmstats-pro-javaCharmStats Pro is for those large study researchers or survey teams who want to quickly and easily create and preserve the recoding or harmonization syntax as part of a codebook. CharmStats Pro imports the necessary metadata information to document the harmonizations. Once imported, researchers can search for the variables you need, import them into a project and quickly produce syntax(es) to harmonize variables in SPSS and Stata. This version also allows research teams to add reference information for any sources consulted. CharmStats Pro auto-generates the same reports and graphs found in QuickCharmStats 1.1, for all your documentation needs.

CharmStats Pro is unique because it allows for a shared database that connects all the members of a study team. Those who work on large-scale studies or research projects with several staff can now combined and collaborate on their variable harmonization and documentation work.  To facilitate a cooperative digital environment, CharmStats Pro has a communications suite featuring an internal email and task manager system to help teams organize their work.

We believe that after investing a short amount of time learning how to create projects you and your team will save valuable time and effort by digitizing your harmonization work. Learn more on how to get your original documentation work published for citation by reading this open access article on harmonization documentation standards and reporting: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0147795.

To contact us or download the software, please visit http://www.gesis.org/en/services/data-analysis/data-harmonization/.

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DINI/nestor Workshop: #RDM Tools

On June 17, 2016 the fifth DINI/nestor workshop on the topic of research data and data management took place in Kiel, Germany. It addressed the topic of tools for research data and their integration in the research and data management process.

Tools for data management and data handling are important for (at least) two reasons: 1) They help to standardize research data management and its procedures. 2) They can help to foster the adoption of research data management practices by reducing the effort and time researchers have to invest when implementing RDM measures.

The biggest challenge in this regard is, however, to develop tools that are actually used – as presenters pointed out repeatedly, tools have to integrate with the research process as seamlessly as possible to stand a chance of being adopted. A tool requiring researchers to go out of their way and that does not produce an immediate tangible benefit will end up not being used.

The workshop’s presentations and breakout sessions introduced participants to an assortment of different data management tools already available or currently being developed, ranging from Virtual Research Environments to tools for the creation and publication of metadata, and packaging tools for the submission of data and documentation to a repository.

Among the questions discussed during the sessions is that of generic vs. discipline- (or methods-) specific tools. Thus, while it makes sense to offer certain services – such as secure storage, document sharing, project management and communication – centrally, many aspects of data management are very specific to the different disciplines and methods used in the research. This includes, for example, how and with which metadata the research process and data are best documented, the degree of automation of measurement and analysis processes, or typical ways of collaboration.

Below is an overview and short description of the tools presented during the workshop. All presentations (in German) are available for download from the workshop page.

Overview of tools presented

Tool Discipline institutional Collaboration Storage Metadata Data handling Publication
DataWiz Psychology o o o x o x
LZA Lite generic x (x) x x o (x)
MASI generic, Applied Sciences x o x x o x
Replay DH Digital Humanities o x o x x o
VRE GEOMAR Marine science x x x x x x
VRE U Kiel generic x x x x x x
ZBW Journal Data Archive Economics o o (x) x o x

DataWiz is a data management tool currently developed at the ZPID, Leibniz Center for Psychology Information. It supports data management planning and implementation in the field of psychology and supports the documentation of the research process and the data with the help of metadata. It will be possible to directly submit the data and the documentation created with the tool to the ZPID research data center PsychData. The tool will also support the pre-registration of research in the future.

GEOMAR data management portal: This integrated data management system for marine research is a collaborative effort of several large-scale marine research projects begun in 2009. The objective was to create a common working platform and a common research data management rather than addressing the associated challenges in each project separately. Today the platform incorporates tools for data collection, archiving, and publication, as well as for information exchange and collaboration.

LZA Lite is a cooperation between three German universities. It is a Fedora-based platform supporting the secure storage of both administrative records and research data and its enrichment with metadata. It is planned to expand the platform with solutions for working collaboratively and for long-term preservation. The productive system will be launched in 2017.

MASI – Metadata Management for Applied Sciences is a tool currently developed at the TU Dresden in cooperation with several other HEIs. Intended as a research data repository for “living data” it will integrate functions and services for the (automated) description of data with metadata, data storage, and publication and re-use of data.

Replay DH: This is a project to build a git-based versioning tool for research data in the digital humanities carried out at the universities of Ulm and Stuttgart. A GUI and fields for standardized metadata description will be created for git and a DOI registration (also for not-yet final versions of the data) will be implemented.

Virtual Research Environment at the University of Kiel: Based on existing infrastructure, the project currently establishes a generic VRE combining tools for data storage, collaboration, and publication with central services such as identity management and with discipline-specific tools. The VRE is embedded in an organizational setting dedicated to fostering RDM practices at the University of Kiel and offering (face to face) support for researchers among other things.

ZBW Journal Data Archive: This portal was developed at the ZBW – German National Library of Economic as part of the EDaWaX project to support the replicability of research in Economics. Based on CKAN, it allows for the description with metadata and publication of data underlying empirical research articles in accordance with journal data policies. The data is securely stored in the SOEP Research Data Center while the metadata is managed by the ZBW.