Updating you on eLaboratories

We have been working on two main subjects: (1) international and interdisciplinary collaboration for quality of life (QoL) research; and (2) computer-based technology and infrastructure assisting (1). This type of computer-supported cooperative work in the social sciences has been termed eHumanities or eSocial Science.

QoL or human well-being research has gained momentum after the representatives of the European Commission, the OECD, the UN, the UNDP, and the World Bank made the Istanbul Declaration in 2007 to undertake the measurement of societal progress in each country. In the context of QoL or human well-being research and measurement, one of the most influential concepts is the capability approach (CA). Yet, the operationalization of the CA has long been one of the serious challenges faced by social scientists. As regards to this issue, we argue that modern technology has the potential to provide ample tools for enhancing the measurement of human well-being, and facilitating large-scale collaborative research on the QoL.

We have developed a methodology, procedures, and tools based on the new technologies developed for both governmental and intergovernmental (OECD) sponsored assessments and that are ready to be used for QoL analysis. We propose a viable alternative for facilitating international and interdisciplinary research collaboration to develop a methodology and a dashboard of indicators to monitor the progress of human well-being over the years and to formalize its multidimensional measure for international comparisons.

The tools are brought together in a platform which relies on three important components. The first one is a generic system for shaping, storing, and sharing knowledge, named Generis that has been adapted and used to create a research framework. The second part is TAO, a fully-fledged and flexible computer-based assessment system built on top of Generis. Finally, a multilingual portal developed with the Content Management System (CMS) Drupal integrates all the functions offered. The first two have been developed in Luxembourg and all three are open source. We use Generis on the Internet to collectively model social phenomena (e.g., well-being) and TAO for measurements and computer-assisted forms of data collection. Today the platform TAO has been used for a variety of purposes. It has been used for national school monitoring (e.g., in Germany and Luxembourg), dental school (e.g., Sweden) and intergovernmental (OECD) sponsored assessments such as PIAAC 2011, PISA 2012 (in 66 countries) and PISA 2015 (+70 countries).

In short, compared to other tools and technologies, we have three distinct characteristics. First, we are open source and distributed (multi-lingual and multi-cultural, good accountability and security). Second, we are ontology-based. Third, we focus on eHumanities or eSocial Science. We hope to build a consortium to advance this open source initiative.

* TAO is the French acronym for “Testing Assisté par Ordinateur” or “Computer-Assisted Testing” in English.


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