CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 · Appl Clin Inform 2017; 08(04): 1173-1183
DOI: 10.4338/ACI-2017-05-RA-0085
Research Article
Schattauer GmbH Stuttgart

Usability and Suitability of the Omics-Integrating Analysis Platform tranSMART for Translational Research and Education

J. Christoph
C. Knell
A. Bosserhoff
E. Naschberger
M. Stürzl
M. Rübner
H. Seuss
M. Ruh
H.-U. Prokosch
B. Sedlmayr
Further Information

Publication History

26 May 2017

23 October 2017

Publication Date:
21 December 2017 (online)



Background Platforms like tranSMART assist researchers in analyzing clinical and corresponding omics data. Usability is an important, yet often overlooked, factor affecting the adoption and meaningful use. Analyses on the specific needs of translational researchers and considerations about the application of such platforms for education are rare.

Objectives The aim of this study was to test whether tranSMART can be used in education and how well medical students and professional researchers can handle it; to identify which kind of translational researchers—in terms of skills, experienced limitations, and available data—can take advantage of tranSMART; and to evaluate the usability and to generate recommendations for improvements.

Methods An online-based test has been done by medical students (N = 109) and researchers (N = 26). The test comprised 13 tasks in the context of four typical research scenarios based on experimental and clinical data. A web questionnaire was provided to identify both the needs and the conditions of research as well as to evaluate the system's usability based on the “System Usability Scale” (SUS).

Results Students and researchers were able to handle tranSMART well and coped with most scenarios: cohort identification, data exploration, hypothesis generation, and hypothesis validation were answered with a rate of correctness between 82 and 100%. Of the total, 72.2% of the teaching researchers considered tranSMART suitable for their lessons and 84.6% of the researchers considered the platform useful for their daily work; 65.4% of the researchers named the nonavailability of a platform like tranSMART as a restriction on their research. The usability was rated “acceptable” with a SUS of 70.8.

Conclusion tranSMART is potentially suitable for education purposes and fits most of the needs of translational researchers. Improvements are needed on the presentation of analysis results and on the guidance of users through the analysis, especially to ensure the compliance of the analysis with the requirements of statistical testing.

Protection of Human and Animal Subjects

Our research plan was reviewed by the Ethics Committee of the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg which considered this type of research to be exempted from its approval process and issued a written confirmation thereof. In addition, we declare that the study was performed in compliance with the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki on Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects.

Supplementary Material