August 2013
What is CloudStudy?

CloudStudy, is a cloud-based service for:
  • managing,
  • sharing,
  • organising clinical and patient data from multi-centre studies.
CloudStudy covers all the functional requirements posed by multi-centre studies, and enables researchers to easily organise and share data and knowledge generated by the research activity.
What does CloudStudy System offers?

CloudStudy is an innovative integrated framework for creating platforms for multi-centre studies that enables users with no prior IT knowledge to:
  • Design and launch, in an easy and transparent way, platforms tailored to the specific needs of their studies.
  • Perform basic and advanced user management tasks (manage users, assign user privileges and permissions, perform access control on data).
  • Record, organise and manage clinical/patient data by resorting to a number of built-in and customisable data entry forms.
  • Search and filter information by using a powerful yet simple point-and-click mechanism that poses restrictions on the stored data and extracts the requested information in a number of formats and outputs including raw data, pie/column charts, and ready-to-process spreadsheets.
Questions and platforms

Questions are the backbone of multi-centre studies. To support the set of questions of a particular multi-centre study, CloudStudy introduces platforms. Technically, a platform is a custom-made set of questions, together with all necessary user administration and data management components of a study. Platforms are custom-made questionnaires for each study together with all necessary user administration and data management components.

What is a platform template?

Platform templates offer the ability to reuse all or part of a platform (e.g., the demographic data questionnaire) in more than one studies. For example, demographic data are a typical resuable part of many biomedical multi-centre studies since they hardly change among different studies. To support this reusability, CloudStudy offers the SA the possibility to create platform templates that may be used across different studies.

CloudStudy has many advantages, some of them are that:
  • is a cloud-based tool,
  • is a zero-cost tool,
  • is a zero administration tool,
  • offers both fundamental and advanced user and data management functionality for multi-centre studies.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first cloud-based system that focuses on multi-centre studies and allows users to deploy their own data management platforms within minutes, alleviating the need to rely on expensive custom-made solutions that require IT infrastructure and skills to maintain. Due to the cloud infrastructure, computational resources are allocated on demand, providing elasticity and fault-tolerance.
CloudStudy Architecture

Figure 1. A high-level view of CloudStudy architecture.

CloudStudy architecture

CloudStudy allows users to design and build data management platforms, through a series of simple and adaptive processes. This can be done transparently through simple-to- follow wizards from users without any IT training, while the cloud-based architecture automatically adapts to the required resources and infrastructure by relying on cloud elasticity. The CloudStudy system has been entirely developed by open source software; it uses the Linux/Apache/PostgreSQL/PHP (LAMP) framework as the backend database infrastructure, while the rest of the modules have been developed using Javascript/PHP/JQuery. The cloud functionality is provided by the open-source platform ownCloud setup over a medium-sized computing infrastructure available at the University of Peloponnese.

Figure 1 presents a high-level view of the system architecture and the different types of modules implemented.

  • The Cloud API is responsible for performing all necessary communication with the ownCloud platform and provides elasticity services.
  • The DB Manager performs all necessary storage and retrieval operations to the database backend.
  • The Study Manager module is responsible for the creation, editing, and management of studies, and consists of a number of modules utilised to:
    • manage the users and the stored data associated with a study,
    • filter/extract data requested by a user or a study administrator.
  • The Platform Manager is used to create, edit, and manage platforms and templates utilised by different studies.
  • The User Manager module is utilised by the system administrator to create and manage the study administrators (users in-charge of one or more studies), and also by the study administrators to create and manage the participants (and their roles) in a specific study.
  • The Security and Access Control Module enforces the security policies for the system and controls access privileges over the stored data. Security features include certificate- and password-based authentication, single sign-on policy, and role-based user management.
  • Finally, the User Interface module is responsible for identifying the hardware used to connect to CloudStudy (PC, tablet, smartphone) and adjust the viewing components accordingly.