Uploading as I'm Going

Thu 23 October 2014 by Rick Gilmore


We released over the weekend, quietly and without fanfare, Databrary 1.0. Dylan and the team have delivered a set of tools that enable researchers like me to upload materials related to our scientific research, including documents, images, and especially videos as we generate or collect them.

The idea is a simple one. Rather than make data sharing an additional chore that researchers feel compelled to do sometime after they've completed a project, we're going to make sharing as easy as flipping a switch. The switch will share whatever you've chosen to share with whomever you've chosen to share it -- with your lab group, other colleagues you've chosen specifically, with the community of other Databrary researchers, or even with the public. But, because you've already put these materials into Databrary in an organized way, sharing is pleasurable, not painful. It's just part of your workflow.

If psychologists have learned one thing about behavior, it's that animals avoid pain and seek pleasure. Databrary's upload-as-you-go features are designed with this in mind. Yes, scientists are animals, too. You should see us on the dance floor. But, I digress.

What makes uploading as you're going so pleasurable is the fact that Databrary lets researchers enter information about each data collection session in a web-based spreadsheet. The spreadsheet may include (but doesn't have to) information about the session itself (e.g., date, time, location), and the people who were tested (e.g., age, sex, race, ethnicity), and the tasks they performed. Researchers collect this information already, but by putting it directly into Databrary, we save a step. Plus, these items are directly linked to the other parts of the study -- the videos, surveys, computer-based datasets, and the like. For example, here is a screenshot of the spreadsheet from a small video dataset Florian Raudies and I created for some research we are doing on patterns of motion observers experience in natural environments and how these develop.

Databrary spreadsheet

By clicking on one of the sessions, say the one on August 29, 2013, I go to a page that shows a timeline of the data we collected that day. Here, both Florian and I wore GoPro cameras that recorded our individual views of the world at the same time. I can even play the videos in the browser.

Databrary timeline

Databrary can even store and share images of displays that participants saw or movies of tasks they performed. For example, I study brain responses to visual motion to try to link these responses to observer's actual visual experiences. Here is a link to a study we published last summer that shows one of the types of displays participants saw. We're just starting to collect video again, but when we do, videos of our sessions will go on Databrary, too.

Finally, I've started sharing PDF and video versions of talks I've given, like this one I gave at Berkeley a few weeks ago or this one I gave in London over the summer. The videos don't have sound, and won't ever win an award for cinematography, but they illustrate how video data sharing can have many cool use cases.

We're very excited about Databrary's upload-as-you-go approach to scientific transparency and data sharing. We hope you like it, too.

Oh, and in case you worry about the lack of fanfare. That's coming. Maybe even some dancing.


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