Primary data collections are an integral part of research in epidemiology, public health, social sciences and consumer research. High quality of the collected data is crucial, since errors introduced at this early stage of a study can often not be corrected afterwards. However, while considerable effort is usually spent on ensuring that measurements are collected in a highly standardised and replicable manner, the process of recruiting study subjects often receives less attention. This may result in rather informal recruitment processes and a lack of proper documentation. Furthermore, a detailed monitoring and documentation of the recruitment process is necessary.
Dedicated software enhances the efficiency of recruitment processes and can assist field personnel in conducting the correct actions at predefined times/intervals (e.g. sending letters, initiating calls), by automating routine tasks, in documenting responses in a standardised manner, and in accessing and storing sensitive personal data in a safe and law-compliant way. In addition, such software provides researchers with paradata that allow to go beyond mere quantification of response proportions, and, for instance, to investigate risks of bias or determinants of non-participation, and loss to follow-up.
Based on long-standing experience in the planning, conduct and analysis of population-based studies, and the development of tools for field work, an electronic recruitment system called MODYS (modular control and documentation system) has been developed.
MODYS has been extensively and successfully used by different studies. The current version comprises a generic business logic, a graphical user interface (GUI), a database interface, user rights management and multi-language support. It provides functions for the daily tasks related to participant management and their documentation like editing and updating basic participant data, generating letters, scheduling appointments and logging all contacts between participants and recruitment personnel, as well as other participant-related recruitment tasks. MODYS supports complex study designs with, for instance, several examinations and, in particular, longitudinal studies, designs with different modules for sub-populations (e.g., trial groups), and multi-centre studies (centralised and de-centralised). To ensure flexibility with regard to the user’s system environment, open source software technologies, such as Java with JSF2, Apache Tomcat, MySQL DBMS and LaTeX were used to develop the system. Client-side access via standard web browser, eliminates the requirement for installations and special software on client computers. MODYS is designed as a tool that can be adapted to different study designs and recruitment procedures. The underlying concept of dividing the recruitment process into single and independent steps, each having a predecessor and one or more successors, and the definition of rules regarding possible transitions from one step to another, enables the user to configure MODYS to the needs of a planned study. MODYS is provided as a set of pre-configured Docker containers to ease set-up and configuration.
The scope and the design of MODYS as an open, adaptable and generic solution is one of its unique selling points. This distinguishes it from existing and custom-built solutions for the respective studies that were developed by other research institutions. MODYS is thereby able to replace study specific solutions and to contribute to the standardisation of the recruitment process across a wide range of studies.
MODYS is currently available (upon request) to be used in the community.