Why I’m rooting for ResearchKit

Thoughts from a Researcher

Darryl Bayliss
, in 16 March 2015

I enjoyed watching the Apple Event last week. As usual their passion for cutting edge hardware and their super smooth sales pitch makes it a pleasure to watch. One thing I amongst many others didn’t expect to appear is ResearchKit.

ResearchKit is an open-source framework that allows developers and researchers to create medical research Apps that can easily retrieve data from the sensors in an iOS Device. This also includes user input like questionnaires and surveys.

Before I go on, let me just say that I’m no medical researcher. I spend the majority of my time performing computer visualisations and simulations where privacy and user consent is usually unnecessary. I am however aware of the pain-staking efforts institutions go through to ensure that their research is:

Whilst ResearchKit packages a lot of data retrieval into one framework. The highlight for me is the Informed Consent module. A flexible component that allows you to customise and provide the information individuals require to know when joining the study.

Ensuring research is being conducted within the confines of your institutions ethical code of conduct is an important part of any research project. No wants to be involved in a project that is morally questionable and enhancing human knowledge with reckless regard to moral culpability is a slippery slope to be isolated from the research community.

Gaining this moral stamp of approval can be an audacious process depending on what research you are doing, and for reasons mentioned above. Having quality tools that will help ensure you keep the moral high ground in your research will help persuade any ethics board you are taking ethics seriously.

The ability to do this with relatively minimal effort thanks to ResearchKit is going to be an invaluable tool in any research project that requires volunteers, not just medical.

This module will only get better in time as more and more organisations contribute their own informed consent modules. Which leads me nicely onto…

Open Source

ResearchKit is open source. An excellent choice for a framework that I have no doubt will inspire countless community project contributors to begin porting the framework to other platforms. I’ve been spending a lot of time building for Android and when ResearchKit was announced as Open Sourced, I immediately thought.

Here is my next pet project.

I already have more pet projects than I can cope with, but I can imagine others will be spearheading the movement and I fully intend to contribute in someway. Just looking at the diagram on how ResearchKit works with Tasks, Steps and results immediately makes me jump to various conclusions that this could potentially be done in a relatively short time with reasonable time, effort and hands.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for any projects. So if you even have your own on the go, let me know and I’ll take a look.

Conclusion

As technology companies like Apple continue to have an ever growing presence in our personal lives. It only makes sense that they should have a responsibility in ensuring that our everyday lives are made easier and sustainable. Yes thats how they will remain profitable, but it’s also going to require some philanthropy work from them too.

ResearchKit for me is just the first step, I hope they continue to support it far into the future. Supporting research and open source efforts alike.