Research Support

When you make West Arete part of your research group’s technical team, it allows everyone else to focus on the science. We’ll work with you during the grant-writing process to set reasonable objectives, budgets, and technical strategies. Once the project begins, we’ll work with your team for the duration to handle the software development, data management, and security.

Our goal is to handle the software engineering aspects of the research work so that your collaborators, graduate students, and postdocs can focus on the science.

Grant Writing

West Arete can assist with the grant-writing process. This can help with budgeting, to provide an outside perspective on anticipated labor and resource costs. And a letter of support from West Arete can help to provide evidence to the panel evaluating the grant that the plan for technical execution is sound and well supported. This improves your odds of winning the grant.

External data sources

Many modern projects involve increasingly sophisticated integration with external data sources and APIs (remote interfaces). This can present challenges for proper testing, reliability, and proper recovery from outages. We can help to bring some of the best practices of the software development industry to your projects so that these concerns are handled smoothly and don’t derail your progress.

Data scraping

For our project with FracTracker, we wrote code that would scrape and process tens of thousands of records from archaic county websites for public leases. We can use automated browsers to click through pages and harvest relevant information. These types of data sets are extremely valuable once assembled, but they can be problematic to automate without specialized tools and scripts. And there’s often a need to make the scraping process repeatable, so that the data set can be updated periodically.

Often there are subtle but important decisions to be made during the data harvesting process; decisions about what constitutes valid data, how to properly deal with missing values, and how to handle precision and errors. It’s good to work with a team whose background is in research and higher education, so that your data is getting the proper consideration as it’s being captured.

Large data sets

So much research today revolves around the opportunity that is presented by increasingly rich and large data sets. Each time a new source of data emerges, new opportunities for questioning and discovery emerge with it. But the same scale that affords us the ability to ask new questions can also stretch the boundaries of what existing tools and capabilities can handle. Order-of-magnitude larger data sets will often demand different tools and a significantly different approach to processing and storage. We can help your team to navigate the various options and form the right strategy.

Sometimes all that’s needed is for our team to consult on the proper strategy for execution, so that your team is using the best possible tools and techniques to execute efficiently and wind up with a secure and reliable result.

Other teams offload the entire data collection and cleansing effort to us. This strategy effectively delegates all of that work to our team, so that the scientists can focus on the science.

Data accessibility

Sometimes even after you overcome the hurdles of acquiring, cleaning, and organizing the data, there are still challenges to make it accessible to your team and collaborators. For example, large data sets and slower networks can present a challenge for geographically distributed teams. And sometimes there is a hurdle in translating the data into an appropriate format for analysis — the data is available, but not necessarily accessible to the person or team in question.

There are several strategies for making large data sets quickly and easily accessible to geographically distributed teams. And we can create routines to export customized subsets of the central database for specific types of analysis. This allows different collaborators from different disciplines to use a subset of the data that is relevant to them, and easier for them to manage.

We can also ensure that the proper granular access is enforced. We can help with the management of group access; this can be cumbersome, particularly with external stakeholders who may or may not have a university account.

Data cleaning

Every new data set goes through a “honeymoon period” where you can really start to see the potential, but you haven’t yet uncovered some of the worst inconsistencies. Missing values, inconsistent formats, and hard-to-detect garbage can consume countless hours of valuable time and energy.

Our team understands the subtlety of what constitutes valid data, and we can help to spot inconsistencies. We can automate many tasks that you might think would require human decision-making, potentially saving a member of your team from days or weeks of manual mind-numbing labor.

Mapping and data visualization

Many research projects involve the creation of maps and data visualizations. While it can be one thing to get it to work properly on your lab member’s laptop, it can be another matter entirely to get it deployed to a proper domain, provide proper accessibility, ensure that it works on various browsers and devices, and keep it up to date in the face of changing browsers and security updates. Let your team blaze the initial path and set the vision, and then allow our team to apply the engineering to make it reliable and sustainable to host in production.

Outreach applications

Many grants include a clause that states that the data and results must be made accessible to a broader audience, for the sake of accessibility and education. West Arete can create a custom web or mobile application that showcases your research and data in a way that is friendly and accessible to a less sophisticated audience. By delegating this work to us, your team can focus on the core research.

Backups

With many different storage areas and 3rd party applications for data storage, it can be difficult to ensure that all of your data and source code is properly backed up. It’s important to guard against both system failure and accidental deletion or corruption. Often these two scenarios require slightly different types of backup solutions.

Support

We can provide the technical point of contact for IT and your various collaborators. This can help to take the communication load off of your Principal Investigator and support staff.

Even after the initial development is complete, we can provide a service contract to continue to provide support and maintenance for the duration of your grant.

And if you do want your grad students or postdocs to gain technical skills over the duration of the project, consider introducing a West Arete mentor to provide valuable professional development for your team members, and increase your team’s ability to make high-quality technical contributions for the remainder of the grant period.

 

Let’s Connect

The first step is often a zero-pressure phone call to answer questions and explore whether we both feel that there could be a fit.