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February 6, 2019 - Network-wide Data Harmonization Detailed in New ATN Publication

The ATN has research programs across the country with multiple ongoing research studies. With so much data being collected in different research projects, data could be difficult or impossible to combine or analyze easily.

Data ‘harmonization’ is a way to make information collection standardized, by collecting it in the same ways so it can later be compared and analyzed. The ATN recently developed a set of data harmonization guidelines to promote collection of the same type of data across different studies within the Network.

These guidelines are detailed in a newly published paper, “Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions Data Harmonization: Rationale and Development of Guidelines,” published in JMIR Research Protocols.

“After months of effort from researchers across the ATN, it is very exciting to have the ATN Data Harmonization guidelines paper published where it may be shared more easily within and outside the ATN,” Micah McCumber, co-author of the paper and social/clinical research manager at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, said. “These guidelines are going to be critical to the ATN’s ability to conduct ATN-wide analyses, and I hope this is just the first of many works to come from ATN-wide collaborations.”

The ATN Analytic Committee (AC) developed standard data collection methods for eight common domains of ATN research. These eight domains are:

- Demographics and Socioeconomic Characteristics
- Sexual Behavior and Risk
- Substance Use and Abuse
- HIV-Positive Cascade
- HIV-Negative Cascade
- Mental Health
- Social Support and Isolation
- Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Cascade

Some domains were assessed by working groups across the ATN. These working groups identified previously used data variables in ATN studies, sought potential data items for standardized information collection, and recommended a set of data items for collection in future ATN studies to the AC.

“The ATN Analytic Committee (AC) developed these guidelines in order to harmonize measures, or variables, to be collected across ATN studies,” Dr. Michael Hudgens, co-author of the paper and member of the AC, said. “Collecting selected key measures uniformly across studies will facilitate characterization of participants in ATN studies, comparisons between studies, and future pooled analysis of data from multiple studies.

These guidelines will make describing youth populations involved in ATN studies easier. The ATN will re-assess harmonized measures in the future.


Click here to read more about the ATN’s research agenda.