Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Improving Ethics Approval in Research With Google Forms and Spreadsheets

I have just met with a colleague who is using Google Forms to improve the Ethics Approval process for research projects. They are taking a slightly different path to the one I might have plumped for, and are creating, on-the-fly Google Documents, filling in the appropriate sections and then sending them to people to add comments to etc.

We thought he may have worked himself into a corner because although there is a function to capture when people submit a form ( onFormSubmit() ), there isn't one to capture if you "allow the user to edit responses" - there's no onFormUpdate().

We created a workaround by having a time-based trigger that just checks to see if the updated_timestamp is greater than the last_checked_timestamp.

The best part, for me, of working with my colleague was when I referred at some point to my JavaScript skills being far from honed and he asked "So is this JavaScript then?" and laughed incredulously. He was happily coding away without even knowing what language he was coding in. Brilliant.

One thing I'm starting notice over the last few weeks and months is how many people are working on processes... and/or process improvement. I keep meeting people with visual flow charts of their ideal worlds.  I wonder how far we should encourage Google Apps hacking ( where you potentially can get almost exactly what you want ) or whether we should be looking at tools that explicitly handle processes, like RunMyProcess ( shown below ) which even have their own tools to design your workflows and a gazillion integration plugins.

But then there's also an overlap with CRM and service desk applications. In most cases there's just stuff that requires stuff to happen that involves people to do stuff - which is pretty much what a CRM might do isn't it?

So, I'm wondering, given that I keep coming across people interested in creating workflows, should I be looking into a workflow lite app or heavyweight state of the art workflow system? Or should we keep crafting ( or crufting ) our own version?


  1. I've seen RunMyProcess before and it looks very cool. But there's a lot to be said for people doing the simplest thing that will work.

    It might be worth a bid to look at RunMyProcess properly, with some funding to get a decent number of licenses

  2. I usually have problem in critique qualitative research because it s not as simple as it look. We need more research for it.