International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

Finding Research Subjects, Collecting Data on WWW

Posted 1 April 1998 in StressPoints by David V. Baldwin, PhD., Contributing Editor, Trauma Online

The traumatic-stress field is beginning to make use of the Internet for research and data collection. While we have not reached the Web savvy of some other disciplines, like neuroscience or philosophy, there is clearly progress. Since my last StressPoints column, several new Web sites have appeared that use the Web to identify appropriate subjects or collect data. I'll focus on some of these sites in this column as examples of the potential uses of the internet in trauma research.

A Web page at NIMH lists NIH-sponsored Clinical Studies (intramural and extramural research) at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/studies/.

A related site lets you search for studies in need of subjects by investigator or disease at http://clinicalstudies.info.nih.gov/index.html.

For example, Una McCann, Robert Post and colleagues in the Biological Psychiatry branch at NIMH are seeking subjects for a study using repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) for Acute and Chronic PTSD. The specific URL describing this rTMS study is http://www.cc.nih.gov/cc/bin/clinicalstudies/wais/bold.pl?/u/pfreling/www/studies/detail/A_97-M-0128.html.

This cumbersome URL can also be found through the NIH search engine (above), or at my own site, in Research Participation links near the bottom of page four. Note that the Trauma Information Pages Web site has moved to a new and permanent URL.

The Center Watch site, similar to the one at NIMH, lists clinical trials for new medications and newly approved drug treatments. Center Watch allows easy searching by disease category or geographical region as well as e-mail notification as new trials are added. You can find Center Watch at http://www.centerwatch.com/.

Besides finding research subjects, other uses of the Web might include collecting (or offering) normative psychometric data on scales or symptoms. Of course, not all trauma research topics can appropriately collect data over the Web. Sometimes the topic (e.g., suicidal ideation) may be too risky to collect data so impersonally. In other cases, interviews or personal connection with research participants is required. Still, two new research sites seeking to collect data directly over the Web deserve mention.

Ross Cheit has created an archive of cases and studies concerned with traumatic amnesia at http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Taubman_Center/Recovmem/Archive.html.

This site also seeks additional corroborated "recovered memory" cases. Specific criteria for adding a case are available on site; information can be submitted directly over the Web with a simple form.

A nice example of online trauma data collection is a dissertation study of vicarious traumatization and gender among psychotherapists. Catherine Cardieri, a doctoral student at CW Post campus of Long Island University, is collecting these data with David Pelcovitz. Cardieri created a three-part questionnaire that can easily be filled out directly at http://spring.eecs.umich.edu/cardieri/.

Experienced trauma therapists can visit her site and complete this anonymous form-based questionnaire in about 15 minutes. Researchers and graduate students may also want to visit the latest example of automated clinical data collection in our field.

Several other research uses of the web are linked from the research participation section near the bottom of page four at my own Trauma Information Pages at http://www.trauma-pages.com/.

Please let me know if this column inspires you to create your own Web site for trauma research or data collection -- or if I have missed any current examples. I'll be happy to link to such efforts from my own site, and will try to mention additional research applications in future columns -- particularly those that break new ground in using the Internet for trauma research.