LimeInterview #2: Meet our partner "ACSPRI"

We continue our series of #LimeInterviews with Adam Zammit from ACSPRI (Australian Consortium for Social & Political Research Inc.), a not-for-profit organisation based in Australia. Their services are generally geared towards the members of the association, but he and his team also provide "usual" LimeSurvey services such as installation, hosting, survey programming, customization, and theme development.

Q: When and for what project did you use LimeSurvey the first time?

A: When working at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia in 2006, I started using LimeSurvey (which was then called PHPSurveyor) for experimenting with web based surveys.

In 2005 at Deakin, with colleagues Ken Reed and Bridget O’Brien, we had developed a basic description of a questionnaire in XML, called “queXML”. At the time, we used manually edited XML in queXML form to describe the questionnaire once, then used XML Stylesheets to convert the XML in to specific code for particular survey packages. At the time we were using a system developed at UC Berkeley called CASES for telephone interviewing, and also developed an XML Stylesheet along with the Apache FOP processor to produce PDF documents of the survey. In early 2006 I discovered PHPSurveyor, which, while in its infancy was a very flexible tool for web based surveys.

We developed a new stylesheet which produced SQL statements from queXML and manually inserted the questionnaire structure in the format that PHPSurveyor understood, and then in 2006, developed export code for queXML for PHPSurveyor, so it could be used as an authoring tool for questionnaires and export queXML. Carsten, who I believe had only recently taken the reins at the newly renamed LimeSurvey project, accepted our patch and queXML has been included in LimeSurvey since the very early version of LimeSurvey 1.6.

Q: When did you start your business?

A: In 2009 I moved from Deakin University to ACSPRI, the Australian Consortium for Social and Political Research Incorporated, and along with colleague and director at the time of ACSPRI, Ken Reed, set up ACSPRI as a small, academically focused survey research operation, independent of one particular university. ACSPRI has a long history in the social and political sciences in Australia, being established in 1976 to aid researchers to access survey data stored in the data archives of the ICPSR (Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research) in Michigan, USA.

Since 2009, ACSPRI has provided survey services mainly to Australian universities and government research bodies, with a focus on using open source technologies such as LimeSurvey.

Q: Tell us about your company and your team.

A: ACSPRI is a small, not-for-profit organisation based in Melbourne, Australia. Our members are institutions, not individuals. Most Australian universities are members of ACSPRI, along with many government based research organisations. Our services are geared towards our members. We are a small team, focused on providing timely and friendly service.

Q: Which services do you offer as LimeSurvey authorized partner?

A: With many years of experience with LimeSurvey under our belt, including developing tools that wrap around LimeSurvey (such as our telephone interviewing system, queXS; our paper form mark recognition and processing system, queXF; and our tool for describing questionnaires and producing paper forms, queXML) – we consider ourselves a “full service” LimeSurvey partner, in that we provide the “usual” LimeSurvey services such as installation, hosting, survey programming, customisation, and theme development, but also provide support and development of tools related to broader survey data collection, not limited to just LimeSurvey. We believe LimeSurvey is a fantastic tool that forms an integral part of survey data collection operations more broadly.

Q: Do you have a special tip for advanced LimeSurvey users?

A: Use the “survey logic file” often, especially before activating a survey. Some logic issues may not appear as errors in the logic file, but may become clear to you if you notice the expression manager syntax not being highlighted.

Q: Tell us about your most interesting or challenging LimeSurvey project.

A: One project which I believe has shown the power of LimeSurvey as a data collection tool, but also stressed its capacity to the limit is a project we are running for collecting data for a Discrete Choice Experiment (DCE). DCE’s (also known as choice modelling) techniques, involve constructing a set of items (called a “choice set”) and then asking respondents a selected subset of these items. For this to work, the questionnaire in LimeSurvey needs to be set up in a way that has all possible choice sets pre-loaded, and also know how to choose the particular subset to display to the respondent. For this we have made extensive use of array style questions, along with the fantastically powerful Expression Manager system.

Q: What do you consider the most important IT development at the moment?

A: Containers. Software such as Docker has changed the way services can be delivered to greatly increase server utilisation and reduce administration – which both lead cost savings and efficiency improvements. We have been maintaining a Docker container for LimeSurvey which allows for the quick installation or testing of LimeSurvey without the need to provision and configure server. This container now has over 100,000 pulls on Docker Hub.

If you would like to find out more about Adam & his team, please check their website. You can also address them questions on the forum.

In case you would like to find out more about our network of partners, please visit the following website.

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