Information technology tools and resources at the UW
Using the Catalyst Web Tools for Research Activities
The Catalyst Web Tools are Web-based applications that support teaching, learning, and research activities for members of the University of Washington community. Researchers can use several of these tools to support secure communication and collaboration with their colleagues. Any UW-affiliated individual can own one or more Catalyst Web Tools by logging in with their individual username and password (UW NetID), and then creating the tool. Researchers can choose to use any of the tools described below to store, share, or collaborate on files.
In doing research with human subjects, these tools are best used to support the exchange of anonymous or confidential data and information among members of a research team. Research projects that use GoPost, CommonView, Collect It, or ShareSpaces to collect data from research subjects need to be reviewed by the Human Subjects Division (see below, “Under what circumstances does using these resources require Human Subjects review“). Since every information system has some vulnerabilities, the Human Subjects Division may also require that very sensitive confidential or identifiable data be encrypted before being stored or shared through these systems. Researchers are always free to encrypt the data they store or share, even without a requirement from the Human Subjects Division that they do so.
GoPost enables UW-affiliated individuals to set up online discussion boards. Members can post to the board to exchange ideas and information any time from any Internet-connected computer. Each posting to the discussion board can be accompanied by one or more attached file. GoPost discussion boards can be secured by UW NetID or made open to the public at the discretion of the board owner. Researchers could use GoPost discussion boards for communicating and collaborating asynchronously with colleagues, and sharing files as part of the communication.
CommonView enables UW-affiliated individuals to organize Catalyst tools, files, links and other content in an online workspace for people in a project or work group. CommonView workspaces can be used either for distribution of information, files, and resources, or for collaborative work on content and resources. The workspace owner can give other UW community members the role of administrator on a workspace, thus enabling them to edit the content and add files. Workspaces can be secured by UW NetID or made open to the public at the discretion of the owner. Researchers could use a CommonView workspace to store and share information about a project, including files. Other Catalyst tools, such as a discussion board, can be added to a workspace to provide one location for access to and management of tools for a project or group.
Collect It enables UW-affiliated individuals to set up a dropbox and collect files online. Designed for online homework turn-in, Collect It is generally useful for securely gathering files online. The dropbox owner can set up assignments (folders) and individuals can then submit files to the specific assignments (folders). The files can be stored online, and downloaded for review. Dropboxes are secured by UW NetID. Researchers could use dropboxes for intake of applications or other files; it is not primarily a collaborative tool.
Under what circumstances does using these resources require Human Subjects review?
In general, Human Subjects review of activities involving these tools is necessary only when these activities constitute or include research with human subjects. There are two ways in which this could occur:
- One or more tools is used to collect data by interaction with subjects (for example, to conduct a chat-room discussion or focus group, to receive copies of completed questionnaires or surveys, or to administer a questionnaire or survey).
- One or more of these tools is used to store, exchange or use identifiable, private information collected from or about subjects (for example, medical records information, digital recordings, or a dataset produced from questionnaire responses that contains identifiable or private information).
If the activities involve neither (1) nor (2), they do not need to have Human Subjects review.
What information must the Investigator provide to HSD?
If the activities involve using one or more tools to collect data by interaction with subjects, then the use of the tool(s) for that purpose should be described in the appropriate places in the Human Subjects application. In general, this will be in the sections requesting information about study procedures.
If the activities involve using one or more tools to store, exchange or use identifiable private information collected from or about subjects, the use of the tool(s) for those purposes should be described in the appropriate place, in the Human Subjects application. In general, this will be in the sections requesting information about the handling, storage and use of identifiable data, and the range of people to whom identifiable data will be available.
At some point during the review process, it may be necessary to provide one or more reviewers with access privileges to the tool so that the actual presentation or function of the use can be reviewed.
What documents must the Investigator provide to HSD?
In applications covering activities using one or more tools to collect data by interaction from subjects, the application should be accompanied by a printed version of the materials used to collect or elicit that information. If the activity involves a discussion (say an on-line focus group on a GoPost discussion board), then a protocol governing the conduct of the discussion should be provided.
In applications covering activities using one or more tools to store, exchange or use identifiable data, the application should be accompanied by documentation of the data that will be involved. This might include, for example, a list of data fields if a database were to be stored in a shared space.
Because these tools can be re-configured without leaving any auditable trace in the human subjects record, it is necessary to document what was reviewed and approved through the use of printed versions of the material as it was submitted and (if changes were made) as it was approved. In either case, the application should include a reference to this document.