Tech Reports


Geoconda: a web environment for multi-centre research

Christian Setzkorn, Azzam F. Taktak and Bertil Damato


The collection of data for the validation and generation of hypotheses is a fundamental scientific endeavour. To achieve a low margin of error it is necessary to obtain sufficient numbers of samples. However, this is often difficult, especially if the process being observed is very rare and/or if the collection of data is expensive. This is, for examples, the case for uveal melanomas, which has an occurrence rate of six per million per year.

The need for multicentre research into uveal melanoma has motivated the Geoconda system described in this paper. However, the principles described here could also be applied in other research areas. Geoconda is an abbreviation for General Ocular Oncology Database. It uses several web pages and a database to facilitate international collaborations via the Internet and helps, apart from other things, to accumulate sufficient numbers of samples from several different centres around the world. Such collaborations require the standardisation of variables. This is achieved using an interactive multi-stage process that is described in section 2. This interactive multistage process is also used for other tasks within the Geoconda system. For example, it used for the standardisation of terminologies. Standardisation is of great importance for the success of international collaborations where people from different backgrounds work together. Other objectives of Geoconda are to:
Develop and maintain rules for collaboration
Understand essential jargon from different research areas
Become acquainted with collaborators
Host discussions
Collaborate in the preparation of protocols, consent forms and other documents. This paper is organised as follows. Section 2 briefly describes the technologies that where used to implement the Geoconda system. Section 3 provides an exhaustive description of the Geoconda system. This section is followed by the discussions and the chapter concluded in section 6, which provide avenues for future research.

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