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novel use for ACEDB

Dave Lorand davel at src.uchicago.edu
Mon Oct 11 15:08:16 EST 1999


I'm a system administrator in the Social Science division at the
University of Chicago, and I'm looking at ACEDB as a possible way of
analyzing some interesting Psych data being gathered by a research
project.  I'm hoping that one of you ACEDB experts can give me a quick
answer about whether ACEDB can handle this and how much adaptation would
be required (I've been wading through docs for several days, and the
learning curve is a bit steep from non-bio applications).

This project analyzes human interaction, and their data are lists of
actions copied down from videotapes of the interactions.  For a given type
of interaction, they have a a fairly short list of possible actions, and
they divide a long period of interaction into short "cycles" of actions
which turn out to fit into very neat flowcharts.

For example, the sample data we're starting with are from a mother feeding
a baby over a four-month period.  A cycle starts when the spoon leaves the
jar, and ends when the spoon goes back in.  In between, there are a few
places where the baby may exhibit a negative response, after which the
mother may back off or may insist.  You get the vague idea.

The number of possible actions in these cycles is around 10, and there are
lots of cycles.

They want to do queries which count things like the number of cycles with
a NEG1 (a negative response in a particular place in the flowchart) in
which the baby was fed.  Generically, they want to queries like "count
where <action> appears before <action>", where "before" means anywhere in
the cycle and not just immediately before.

It seems like ACEDB could do well with these data, because cycles are
variable-length lists of a few repeating things - very similar to gene
sequences.  Relational databases aren't so good with variable-length
lists, and the usually Stat packages used in social science work are
completely orthogonal to this.

So, my question is:  could ACEDB handle this easily?  if not, how much
modification and work would be required to do it?

Thanks in advance,


P.S.  I'd appreciate email copies of any replies.

| Dave Lorand, Programmer/Analyst   | davel at src.uchicago.edu |
| Social Science Research Computing | 773-702-3792           |
| University of Chicago             | 773-702-2101 (fax)     |

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