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Annotation for Transparent Inquiry (ATI) Initiative

The Annotation for Transparent Inquiry (ATI) Initiative investigates ATI’s contribution to openness, evaluates the challenges that its use poses, and gathers information to inform future development of ATI and its underlying technology. The Qualitative Data Repository (QDR) and Cambridge University Press are partnering on the initiative, which is supported by generous funding from the National Science Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Participation in the initiative is by invitation. If you are interested in participating, please contact QDR (


Calls have been issued across the academic and policy communities for increased data sharing and research transparency. Policy interventions by the White House, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and others have mandated greater openness. Academic publishers, journals, and funding organizations are likewise requiring that authors and grantees share the data underlying their inquiries and conclusions. Exciting technological developments make it possible to meet these expectations.

Qualitative data – drawn from text, audio, video, and/or images – provide compelling direct evidence to support different kinds of inferences and interpretations. However, making publications based on qualitative sources more transparent presents a variety of challenges to both authors and readers, given the context-dependent nature of such sources, and the copyright and human participant challenges that sharing them can pose. The fact that such data (and their analysis) are typically interwoven throughout the text of publications likewise complicates deploying them in appropriate places and ways.

To meet these challenges, QDR has partnered with the non-profit technology firm Hypothesis to develop ATI, a new approach to achieving transparency in qualitative and multi-method research in the health and social sciences. ATI draws on an earlier approach, Active Citation, developed by Moravcsik (2010, 2012a, 2012b, 2014a, 2014b, 2014c, 2016). ATI is based on the concept of "open annotation," which allows for the generation, sharing, and discovery of digital annotations across the web. Scholars who use ATI to make a digital publication more transparent produce an "ATI Data Supplement,” which is linked directly to their article or book on a journal’s or publisher’s web site. ATI Data Supplements comprise an “ATI Data Overview,” a set of digital annotations, and underlying data sources (when these can be shared ethically and legally). The data sources are securely housed and preserved in QDR, a trusted digital repository.

By accelerating access to research-enhancing information and easing readability, ATI augments and amplifies the impact of qualitative research. The “ATI at a Glance” page offers additional information, and a page with some early prototypes shows ATI in action. We alsprovide basic instructions for using ATI.

ATI Pilot Working Group

QDR is assembling an ATI Pilot Working Group to help us to continue developing this new approach to transparency. Working group members – pioneers for this new approach – include authors from various health and social science disciplines who employ multiple analytic approaches, use diverse types of qualitative data, and study different world regions and temporal periods. This diversity allows us to identify different ways in which annotation contributes to academic research and publishing. The working group also includes reviewers charged with evaluating authors’ use of ATI according to a pre-determined set of criteria; in most cases the reviewers are nominated by participating authors, but are at a different institution from the author whose work they are reviewing.

ATI Workshops

QDR staff, working group members, and other interested parties will gather at two workshops. The first will take place on February 22 and 23, 2018 in New York City, and the second will be held on September 27 and 28, 2018. Workshop participants will discuss their experiences using ATI to annotate their article and consider reviewer insights on and critiques of their work. The goal of the workshops is to evaluate all aspects of ATI, identifying the ways in which it enhances scholarship and the challenges employing it presents, and considering how the ATI approach and technology can be further developed.

The first workshop will include authors who used ATI to retrospectively annotate an article based on qualitative evidence that they recently published, or have forthcoming, in an academic journal. The second workshop will be attended by authors who used ATI to annotate manuscripts at the time they were writing them. The article reviewers will also attend the workshops.

Timeline, Workshop #1

  • January 15, 2018: authors complete their ATI projects and submit them to QDR
  • February 2, 2018:
    • QDR completes curation of ATI projects, using Hypothesis technology to generate open annotations, links them to the digital versions of the articles published on the journal web site, and publishes the ATI Data Supplement on the QDR web site.
    • Reviewers begin to assess ATI projects.
  • February 16, 2018: reviewers submit their assessments of ATI projects to QDR and to authors
  • February 22-23, 2018: workshop

Materials, Workshop #1

We will post project materials here as we make them available to participants.

  • Author Logbook Instructions

Participants, Workshop #1

The list of participants will be added soon.