A 19,000 sq. ft. building designed specifically to meet the needs of the Cancer Prevention Research Center (CPRC) is in an ideal location within the social science complex on the URI campus. This exemplary research facility was opened in June 1991 and an addition that doubled the size was opened in January 2000.
The current CPRC building contains 55 offices, a lobby and reception area, three conference rooms, and adaptable research space. Beyond office space, this research setting contains several specially designed areas, including a large telephone survey center (1300 sq. ft.), a large mailing area (420 sq. ft.), and several rooms designed to house the central components of the CPRC computer system.
CPRC Computing Resources
The CPRC has a sophisticated computing infrastructure that offers researchers high speed, security, and remote connection capability. The network architecture is protected 24×7 behind a Cisco firewall system featuring stateful intrusion detection. Access to network resources from the field is available to researchers securely via VPN (Virtual Private Network). The building Internet feed comes through University controlled fiber-optic lines.
Current projects feature such capabilities as secured closed wireless connectivity for subjects participating from the field; web connectivity for subjects participating from home; a telephone survey system for subjects participating from home.
CPRC has a total of 60 laptop PCs, 60 desktop PCs and 11 Windows servers with RAID technology. RAID offers both increased performance and fault tolerance. Deployment and maintenance of all machines are controlled through the use of images created by either Norton Ghost or Acronis True Image. This scheme eliminates downtime whenever a machine should fail.
Some recent and developing projects utilize the TTMX system, a JAVA based system running on a combination of Apache Tomcat, MySQL and JRE. JAVA offers tremendous scalability as projects progress, and the use of open source technology reduces operating expense. Our survey center utilizes our own SMS (Survey Management System) program, which ties into an SQL backend server.
All data is backed up on a disk based nightly and weekly scheme controlled by Symantec Backup Exec software. Multiple backup locations insure zero loss in case of failure.
The CPRC employs a full time database manager, with several part-time assistants. The data manager monitors the integrity of the data files and routine execution of backup procedures. Currently, data is stored on micro-computer hard disks, with at least two back-up tape copies always maintained, one of which is stored off-site. Data is maintained at the CPRC building on either of two LAN systems, each of which is equipped with power failure backup devices and automatic tape backup systems. All data at the CPRC is backed-up automatically each day onto magnetic tape. Data is entered into the system in two ways. Some of the data arrives by mail and is scanned in with an optical scanner. The rest of the data is keyed directly into the computer assisted telephone interview (CATI) system by survey center telephone interviewers when they call subjects. The mail data is checked three times. First there is a visual check of the forms being scanned. Next, the scanner itself rejects unacceptable forms. Finally, the database program lists any surveys that are incomplete or have inconsistent answers. Since the survey center and the CATI system do most of their own data verification, the clean data is sent directly to the central client server database for storage. Clean data is then ready to be used to generate expert system progress reports. The data is routinely exported to ASCII files that can be used with statistical software packages.
The CPRC has developed a computerized Survey Management System (SMS) that integrates mail and telephone survey data collection through a client server network connecting over 40 client stations dedicated to the survey center. The Survey Center has 30 dedicated computers telephone interviewing cubicles, and approximately 90 experienced part-time survey interviewers. 5 486 class computers are used by project supervisors for project monitoring and troubleshooting. The SMS event scheduler provides real time notification to survey staff of all surveys that need to be verified, schedules the call backs and production of intervention reports, and provides database lists of surveys that were not returned and therefore must be completed by phone. Computerized project management reports have been developed that directly access the centralized project databases, providing automated daily project status statistics, which are routinely reviewed to monitor project progress. This system enables prevention, and early detection and correction of database problems related to any of the ongoing survey projects being conducted by the SRC.
Data Entry and Storage
Data will be entered at the URI Survey Research Center (SRC), using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) and Optical-Scanning technology. Multiple copies of all project databases are stored in at least two different locations at all times throughout the project to prevent accidental data loss. In addition, the URI mainframe can be accessed directly as an additional data storage site as needed. The URI Academic Computer Center mainframe supports FTP (file transfer protocol) software, which will enable speedy transfer of large data sets over fiber optic data transmission lines.
Data Entry with the Optical Scanner
The SRC employs 4 Fujitsu Image OCR Scanners, and two backup NCS OpScan 5, Model 20/30 optical mark scanners for data collection, which read customized response forms, thus avoiding the expensive and tedious keypunching step. The subjects themselves record the responses directly on the forms, which the clerical staff check for errors before entry. Standard response forms will be developed in the first year for all studies. A laser printer will be used to generate the progress reports for the expert system interventions of all relevant projects.