REDCap: Your Complete Solution for Online Databases and Surveys for Research

Logo for OCTRI's Red Cap program, which is short for Research Electronic Data Capture.

What is REDCap?

REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture) is secure, web-based, EDC (electronic data collection) software, developed and distributed by Vanderbilt University, and intended for collecting data and distributing surveys for clinical research studies.

EDC software originated in the 1990s to replace the traditional paper-based data collection methodology for capturing research data. REDCap has functionality that's common to all EDC's, including: electronic case report forms (eCRF), data entry with real-time data validation, a data audit trail, data exporting, data checking/data query management, multi-level user access, and report generation. Find a list of REDCap's specific features on the REDCap home page.

Learn more about REDCap by watching a brief summary video created by the developers of REDCap.

Key details

  • REDCap is widely used in the academic research community and has been in use at OHSU since 2007.
     
  • REDCap is designed to protect data privacy and integrity, and it complies with HIPAA regulations and IRB mandates. Review key security features for data storage and data transmission.
     
  • REDCap was created to put researchers in control of their work. No programming or technical experience is needed to stand up a data collection project. At OHSU, personnel build and manage their own projects with guidance and help from the REDCap Team. Learn more about project building.

Review the information below to find out if REDCap is right for your project

REDCap for research

REDCap at OHSU is primarily used for research. Specifically, it is available for OHSU investigator initiated research studies that are not FDA regulated. OHSU's REDCap is not configured or managed for 21 CFR Part 11 compliance. There are special guidelines for using REDCap for GPDR-regulated research, which involves collaborations with sites in the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA), and the United Kingdom (UK); contact the REDCap Team if this applies to your study.

REDCap is not meant for storing big data, and REDCap is not available for collecting data for stem cell research.

Regulatory requirements

OCTRI staff conducts brief regulatory reviews for all REDCap project requests involving human subjects research. Study teams must include language about their data management systems in the protocol.

IRB approval is not required to start building a project, but it is required to finalize the project setup (i.e. push to production) and collect real data.

Help and support

For research studies, REDCap at OHSU is largely a supported self-service application. Personnel complete training and then build their projects, learning as they go. Help is integrated into the software, and basic support, which is for assistance with the core functionality that's covered in our Basics and Survey trainings, is provided at no cost to builders and persons managing projects through email and regularly scheduled drop-in sessions. Learn more about our model of support.

Costs and charges

For research projects, there is no cost for support and help activities for the core functionality that's covered in our Basics and Survey trainings. Currently, there is no cost for project hosting and data storage for the first year of a project's existence. There are charges for custom support, which is for additional help for builders and persons managing projects looking to accelerate their learning, to get advice in applying the concepts covered in trainings and in the wiki to the context of their study, or to get hands-on help or advice with complex problem solving and project set up activities. Charges are determined on a case-by-case basis per project and depends on the level of the support and scope of the work.

There are annual fees for accounts for external users for using some optional or peripheral modules/functionality.

Learn more about costs and charges.

REDCap for non-research

Although REDCap's primary and intended use is for research data collection, REDCap can be used for the following kinds of non-research data collection projects at OHSU: 

  • IRB exempted quality improvement projects
  • Feedback on provider or student training for quality improvement
  • Study team and department operations for supporting research
  • Department operations for processing applications for funding opportunities and awards

REDCap is not available for collecting source data for patient or clinical care, including billing, tracking referrals, and follow-up surveys for patient visits. REDCap is not approved for digitizing forms that require legal oversight from the institution, such as the OHSU's agreement to release personal health information.

Help and support

Currently, help and support for the use of REDCap for collecting other types of data besides research data is limited to: 1) processing system requests, 2) self-directed help and learning resources in the REDCap wiki, and 3) the Basics e-learning course and our Survey Training Session.

At the present time, non-research projects are not eligible for email or drop-in help. This is because funding for REDCap is currently only for research activities, which is also REDCap’s intended use. Although, we are in the process of revising our model of support to work with both research and non-research projects in a more sustainable and beneficial way, given our mission, funding, and the volume of projects we support, we must prioritize providing support for research activities.

Costs and charges

The new model of support for non-research projects will have an annual fee that covers project hosting and data storage, as well as email and drop-in help. Until we launch this new support model, charges apply for help beyond the activities outlined above. Charges will be determined by project and will depend on the level of the support and scope of work.

Project building considerations

At OHSU, personnel build and manage their own REDCap projects. Teams new to REDCap often ask the following two questions:

  • How hard it is to learn the software?
  • How long will it take to build a project?

REDCap learning curve

The phrase "learning curve" is used colloquially. In this context, we are referring to the time and effort it takes to learn to use the software to build a project. We're also speaking about the learning curve in generalities, given that a variety of factors impact an individual's personal learning curve, such as familiarity with collecting research data, exposure to other data collection systems, and comfort learning new technology.

Our Basics and Survey trainings are intended to jumpstart the learning process by introducing builders to core and commonly used functionality, as well as established best practices for setting up a project. In general, we think of the REDCap learning curve as flat, meaning it's easy to get started, but is also long. This is because the builder will need to invest time in applying the materials we cover in training to the context of building a project for their study's requirements, and because REDCap is such a feature rich application that a builder may work on several projects before they need to learn how to use a particular feature.

Additionally, some features steepen the learning curve, and by this we mean some features are harder to learn. Examples include the functionality associated with setting up projects for sending out surveys, using REDCap for obtaining consent, and building projects for multi-site data collection.

Learning tips
  • Complete our REDCap trainings
  • Plan to learn as you build your project
  • Read documentation in REDCap and on the wiki to try to answer your own questions
  • Ask for help from a colleague or the REDCap Team

Building time

Data collection forms

When teams new to REDCap plan for the effort involved in building a REDCap project, they tend to focus, almost exclusively, on how long it will take to build out their data collection forms. While there is not a formula that can reliably calculate the total amount of time a project team will need to invest in form building, a key consideration to start with is that we approximate it takes between 1 to 5 minutes to create a single field.

    Additional considerations

    Besides planning time for building forms, which typically requires the largest investment of time, teams should plan time for other activities that are commonly involved in project building, such as:

    • Setting up the data entry workflow
    • Entering test data to validate all forms are functioning properly and are optimized for reducing errors and inconsistencies during data entry
    • Exporting data and the codebook to review with the analyst
    • Assigning users and testing that their permissions match up with their role on the study

    Additionally, some building activities are more time intensive, like setting up forms to be surveys that can be sent to out to participants to complete on their own. This effort almost doubles the amount of building time the team should plan for.

      Testing time

      Building time also includes testing time. Testing is the other activity that usually requires a large investment in time, effort, and coordination, if all the stakeholders are involved in testing and vetting the project, which is highly recommended. The expectation is that before collecting real data, the project team will test all of the features the builder has set up to support data collection and project management. Testing is the only way to determine whether or not the project has been built in a way that it can collect the data required to answer the scientific question posed by the research or address the issue a team is trying to evaluate or track for non-research activities.

        Best practices for success

        Lastly, even if we don't have a formula to estimate the hours a team should plan to spend on project building, we do know there are certain activities or practices that can help mitigate the amount of time and level of effort a project build can take, such as:

        • Finalized data collection requirements
        • Designating a person to organize and manage the building activities
        • Stakeholder engagement in creating the data collection plan, as well as testing and validating the project build
        • Builder access to source documentation, such as a data dictionary or paper CRFs

        Project teams

        REDCap was created to put researchers in control of their work, end to end, from project creation to clean up and analysis of the data that has been collected. Teams are most successful using REDCap when they embrace this foundational principle of the software and engage all the stakeholders in using REDCap, starting with the principal investigator (or data steward for a non-research project) and including the personnel building and managing the project, conducting analysis, and entering data.

        Below, we've outlined the key considerations based on a person's role that impact a team's success for using REDCap to collect data.

        PrincipaI investigator (or data steward for non-research projects)

        • Designate a builder
          The number one key to success is designating the "right" person to be the builder/point person for the project and supporting the time investment they will need to:
          • Learn the software
          • Familiarize themselves with our operations
          • Build the project
          • Train the other team members on how the project is built to capture data

        In our experience working with study teams since 2007, the "right" person is usually a study coordinator or research coordinator, who is motivated to learn new technology, can collaborate with stakeholders to gather requirements, and will be working on the study for its duration. Interns and students, who may only be assigned to a study team for 2 or 3 months, can help build a project, but are usually not the best match to take the lead on a project build.

        • Engage stakeholders
          Identify the personnel who will be entering data and conducting analysis to collaborate with you and the project builder to:
          • Develop requirements for the project
          • Test and validate the project build
             
        • Provide oversight for compliance
          The principal investigator (or data steward for non-research projects) is responsible for ensuring the use of REDCap is in compliance with 1) the protocol, 2) regulatory requirements, and 3) institutional security directives.

        Builder and/or point person

        • Invest in learning
          Trainings are intended to jumpstart the learning process and review operations for using REDCap at OHSU. The larger part of learning happens as builders apply the materials covered in training to the context of setting up a project to meet their study's requirements and identify when they may need additional training or instruction to learn about using advanced or optional features.
           
        • Transform requirements into REDCap solutions
          Requirements define what data is being collected, when and how the data will be collected, and what kinds of reports the study team needs for data monitoring and data analysis. REDCap solutions refer to specific features and functionality for collecting data and managing the data collection workflow. For example, a feature as simple as a validation rule is a solution for reducing data entry errors and inconsistencies by restricting the type of data a user can enter in a text input field.
        • Embrace point person responsibilities
          Every REDCap project is required to have an OHSU point person, typically the builder, to manage the following activities for the team:
          • Provide guidance and expertise to the other members of the team regarding how the project is set up
          • Be the first point of contact for trouble shooting issues and answering questions about operations
          • Reach out to the REDCap Team to get answers or when additional support is needed

        Data analyst

        • Help develop requirements
          Collaborate with the PI, the builder, and the data entry person to ensure that requirements take into account not only what data needs to be collected for analysis, but how the data needs to be collected for analysis. For example, are there coding requirements for categorial data?
           
        • Learn REDCap from an analyst's point of view
          • REDCap exports longitudinal and repeating data in a long format.
          • REDCap has export options for commonly used stats packages, such as SPSS, Stata, SAS, etc.
          • REDCap has tools the study team can use to help with data cleaning, including record locking, missing data codes, data quality rules, and a data resolution workflow.
             
        • Validate the build
          Before the project is moved to production, coordinate with the builder to review the codebook or data dictionary, and coordinate with data entry personnel to ensure there is test data that can be exported and reviewed.

        Data entry

        • Help develop requirements
          Collaborate with the PI, the builder, and the data analyst to ensure that requirements promote data collection strategies that are optimized for both increasing efficiencies, as well reducing inconsistencies and errors in entering data.
           
        • Learn REDCap data entry tools
          • Create and edit a record
          • Record status dashboard
          • Form status
             
        • Test the data entry workflow
          Before the project is moved to production, coordinate with the builder to enter test data and provide feedback.

        Training and support resources

        Upcoming REDCap classes and drop-in sessions are listed below. For a full listing of classes throughout the year, please see the OCTRI Events calendar.

        OCTRI REDCap Basics Training for Project Builders

        Our Basics Training for Project Builders eLearning course will introduce you to the key OCTRI operations and the core REDCap functionality that is foundational for all REDCap projects. No matter what kind of project you'll be building or what kind of data you'll be collecting, our training will help you get a strong start.

        • This eLearning course is designed for individuals who are building or modifying REDCap projects (i.e. project builders/point persons).
        • This eLearning course is not designed for individuals who are performing data entry, data analysis, or data management for a REDCap project.

        Register for the REDCap Basics Training for Project Builders eLearning

        OCTRI REDCap Survey Training Sessions

        Our Survey Training will introduce you to the key OCTRI operations and the core REDCap survey functionality that is foundational for all survey projects. No matter what kind of survey project you'll be building or what kind of surveys you'll be sending out and collecting, our training will help you get a strong start.

        • This survey training is designed for individuals who are building or modifying REDCap projects that will be sending out surveys to participants and collecting their responses.
        • Completing Basics training is a prerequisite for registering for a survey training session.

        Upcoming OCTRI REDCap Survey Training Sessions

        Check back in 2023 for more Survey Training Session dates.

        OCTRI REDCap Drop-in Sessions

        Drop-in sessions are for persons building and managing projects, i.e. project point persons, to get in-person help with: 1) problem solving related to the core functionality that's covered in our Basics and Survey training, 2) guidance regarding survey setup, survey distribution, and pre-production survey reviews, 3) tips for getting started with advanced features, and 4) guidance and help for making production changes.

        Learning resources

        In general, the REDCap learning curve is flat. We say this, because it is easy to get started, but: 1) the builder/point person will need to invest time in applying the materials we cover in training to the context of building a project for their study's requirements, and 2) REDCap is such a feature rich application that a builder may work on several projects before they need to learn how to use a particular feature. 

        Additionally, some features steepen the learning curve, and by this we mean some features are harder to learn.  Examples include: the functionality associated with setting up projects for sending out surveys, using REDCap for e-consent, and building projects for multi-site data collection.

        Given this, we have compiled resources below to help in your learning process.

        Resources in REDCap (log in required)

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        Need help with REDCap?

        Email OCTRI REDCap Support:
        redcap@ohsu.edu

        or check out the REDCap wiki.

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        Research Data Concierge

        Get help accessing and using research data at OHSU 

        Review resources on the Research Data Concierge site

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        Use REDCap for e-consent

        OCTRI developed an IRB-approved toolkit

        Check out the wiki

        Mark your calendars

        Review the full listing of REDCap classes on OCTRI Events.