If a user at Indiana University (IU) has a problem with Research Electronic Data Capture (REDCap) software, they contact the IU REDCap help desk. But when administrators need help, REDCap Technical Lead Andy Arenson handles the tough questions that keep the software running smoothly for researchers working to facilitate the accessibility of critical research. “It’s my job to make sure REDCap is always available,” said Arenson who was honored for his work with the 2020 MVP award from the REDCap Consortium.
The REDCap Consortium’s MVP award, presented annually to REDCap administrators from across more than four thousand institutions, highlighted Arenson’s outreach work outside of software administration. Going above and beyond his commitment to facilitating quality research data, the award honored his fostering of the admin community which supports REDCap for over a million users worldwide. “REDCap is software for people to build their own data entry system without needing a programmer. I don’t say this lightly, it is revolutionary,” said Arenson.
REDCap is software for people to build their own data entry system without needing a programmer. I don’t say this lightly, it is revolutionary. It’s my job to make sure REDCap is always available.
Andy Arenson, IU REDCap Technical Lead, Winner of REDCap Consortium MVP Award 2020.
As a co-founder and leader of the REDCap Consortium FAQ committee from 2010-2016, and as an active member today, Arenson says his technical expertise is often called on to help with administrative strategies at other research institutions. “I will talk with another administrator with questions like, “What’s the best way to configure our system for better performance? Or, what is the best way to install our system so that it will be reliable?,” he said. Modestly describing himself as the “third most knowledgeable IU REDCap administrator,” Arenson says the complex uses and abilities of REDCap makes a consortium of experts necessary for the software ecosystem to thrive. “Like most REDCap administrators, my knowledge tends to be deep in some areas and modest in others,” explained Arenson.
With such a complex software, Arenson says he stays sharp on what support is needed at IU’s installation by taking user tickets once a month. He also hosts workshops on privacy and security on weekly calls with Vanderbilt University, where REDCap was initially developed, and is an active member of the REDCap Community online forum. He also cites the weekly technical call with REDCap institutions with Lead Developer Rob Taylor as an inspiration. “I try to always attend because the questions that show up there only come up because quite knowledgeable people have already tried to solve them on their own,” he said.
I congratulate Andy on this significant honor and I thank him for his partnership in making IU REDCap what it is today
Bob Davis, the Chief Data Officer of the Indiana State Department of Health and long time collaborator with Arenson says his contributions to REDCap, both at IU and across the consortium, are worthy of the award. “Andy’s contributions to the IU REDCap community as well as the overall world-wide REDCap consortium have led to him receiving this award,” said Davis. “His collaboration with the Indiana CTSI and IU’s Department of Biostatistics and Health Data Science over many years has been instrumental in ensuring REDCap dependability in supporting the thousands of projects and users within IU and its many research affiliates. I congratulate Andy on this significant honor and I thank him for his partnership in making IU REDCap what it is today,” he continued.
Arenson says the FAQ committee, as well as his contribution to the Introduction to REDCap for New Administrators training at the annual REDCap conference, which is now hosted digitally as a web presentation on the consortium website, are outlets for sharing knowledge he gains on the job. “I enjoy digging deeply into a system’s technical details and sharing what I’ve learned with other administrators,” said Arenson, who attributes his enthusiasm to both the abilities of the program, as well as the community of REDCap administrators. “The consortium is really fantastic. There is a very strong feeling of camaraderie in the REDCap consortium. In terms of a community around a software application, a lot of people will go out of their way to help because there is a sense that doing so makes all of us more effective,” said Arenson.