SPARK Informatics Team

The SPARK Informatics Team provides software support for the SPARK Project. SPARK is an ambitious project that aims to recruit and retain 50,000 families affected by autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and keep them engaged in research over the course of many years. SPARK collects phenotypic data and genetic samples, and returns genetic findings when appropriate. The SPARK Informatics Team builds and maintains the complex systems that support the SPARK recruitment, retention and research--including applications for online registration, consenting, data entry, biospecimen collection, return of genetic and survey results, and sharing de-identified data with the larger ASD research community.

At the core of these systems lies the customer relationship management (CRM) system, which is composed of generalized constructs such as pedigrees, authorizations, permissions, privacy settings, communities and a workflow engine, all of which integrate with third-party systems for distributing standardized and custom clinical assessments and surveys. These core constructs can be configured to support other human subjects studies in the future.

Several web applications access the CRM in order to support various user roles. The participant portal allows research participants to share and control access to their data, and to participate in new research opportunities. The coordinator portal allows clinical recruitment sites to monitor the progress of affiliated participants, as well as data quality. Various administrative modules within the coordinator portal facilitate the identification and correction of errors. In addition, a pedigree-based query set builder is being developed as a powerful tool to allow internal and external researchers to identify families of interest — either to create custom, de-identified data sets, or to identify participants who might be good fits for external research opportunities.

Technologies used by the SPARK Informatics Team include Python, Django, Django REST Framework, Celery, RabbitMQ, SWI Prolog, PostgreSQL, jQuery, AngularJS, and React.

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