Annotation for Transparent Inquiry (ATI) Initiative

The Annotation for Transparent Inquiry (ATI) Initiative investigated 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), the non-profit technology firm Hypothesis, and Cambridge University Press partnered on the initiative, which was supported by generous funding from the National Science Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The ATI Initiative has ended. You can find many of the annotated projects on our ATI Models page, which is updated regularly.


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, 2014, 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 also provide basic instructions for using ATI.

ATI Pilot Working Group

QDR assembled an ATI Pilot Working Group to help us to continue developing this new approach to transparency. Working group members – pioneers for this new approach – included 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 allowed 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.

Personnel from QDR, from our partners Cambridge University Press and Hypothesis, and from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is generously supporting this project, were also members of the working group. Please find a list of all working group members here.

ATI Workshops

Pilot working group members and other interested parties gathered at two workshops in New York City. The first took place on February 22-23, 2018, and the second on November 29-30, 2018. Workshop participants discussed their experiences using ATI to annotate their articles, and reading articles that have been annotated using ATI. 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.

Workshop #1

The first workshop focused on articles based on qualitative evidence that were recently published in an academic journal, and that authors retrospectively annotated using ATI.

Materials, Workshop #1

Projects, Workshop #1

Projects annotated as part of Workshop 1 are now available on the ATI Models page.

Workshop #2

The second workshop focused on manuscripts that authors annotated using ATI at the time they were writing them. The manuscripts presented were selected through the Annotation for Transparent Inquiry (ATI) Challenge.

Materials, Workshop #2