Customer review: Working with Social Sciences in developing Yoda

‘Yoda supports collaboration between researchers, faculties and institutions’
ChildResearchCenter Utrecht

Dennis Hofman, Lab Manager of the faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, is responsible for the housing, equipment, infrastructure and logistics of the faculty's experimental and observational research conducted in the labs at Utrecht Science Park De Uithof. His faculty was one of the first to use Yoda (short for ‘Your Data’), a hardware and software package with a unique quality-control portal for input, well-structured storage, and central facilities that guarantee all data is usable, findable and secure. 

‘A few years ago, researcher Chantal Kemner received a grant for a longitudinal cohort study program called Individual Development, as part of the Utrecht University strategic theme Dynamics of Youth. The program gathers several types of data – different types of imaging data as well as data from questionnaires and behaviour tests – on children up to the end of adolescence. This is being done both in our labs and at the University Medical Center Utrecht. The data are used, for example, to relate social/emotional-development and brain-development data, and ultimately to predict future behaviour. 

Safe and reliable 

‘A special environment was necessary to store and manage these big data. It includes a system for generating metadata, and safe and reliable ways of making the data available for our own researchers and those we collaborate with. ITS developed Yoda on the basis of our input. One of its special requirements was that it would last at least 10 years, which is quite a long time in IT. 

International cooperation 

‘Today, Yoda is in full use, including many functionalities, like a catalogue in which researchers can see which data are available. Using Yoda supports aspects such as reliability, integrity and quality of research. If a researcher should accidently upload incomplete data, the system will report the error and require the missing data. In addition, Yoda supports cooperation between researchers, departments, faculties and even institutions, nationally and internationally. It’s a piece of infrastructure that has never been developed before. With some adaptations, the system can be used for all kinds of data sets. It has already been rolled out to other faculties. 

Generic solutions 

‘ITS has shown that it can handle a project of this size very well. We started off with a limited team, and knowledge has grown with the project, finding solutions for the practical issues that emerged. I think it’s important for ITS to invest in the knowledge of employees in this way. That should be one of their pillars, next to its growing openness to what is needed in the faculties. Researchers will always have special needs, but Yoda shows that translation to generic solutions for several contexts is possible.’