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UW Research Assistant, Digitization of Medical Study Records (Prof. Janelle S. Taylor)

Posted: 3/11/2019 (Employment)


Qualified and interested applicants are sought for a Research Assistant to assist with digitization of paper records from a longrunning medical study, as part of an NIH-funded research project examining “Health Outcomes for Patients with Dementia without Family Caregivers.”

The project involves a secondary study of existing data from a longrunning medical study of dementia (the “Adult Changes in Thought” or ACT Study), run since the early 1990s through Group Health (now Kaiser Permanente). Our project seeks to use ACT Study data, together with health records data of participants, to answer questions about family & social support for informal caregiving, that the original medical research was not designed to address. Because of this, some materials collected by the ACT Study (such as administrative paperwork and documents prepared as part of their diagnostic protocols), that have not previously considered to be “data” at all, are rich sources of data for us. Funding has been secured to support the work of transforming these paper records into electronic format usable for research: statistical text analysis, and qualitative analysis using Atlas.ti. 

Our study sample includes 848 participants, for each of whom there exists a file containing paper records. Some documents are typed, some are handwritten, some are structured forms with handwritten entries. Once the project is completed, the resulting database will also be made available to other researchers. A scanner and laptop loaded with SimpleIndex OCR software have already been purchased; additional equipment and/or software can be purchased if necessary.

For this project we seek a graduate student conversant with the value and potential as well as the challenges of this kind of digitization project, and willing to engage with the whole “soup to nuts” process of transforming paper records into usable electronic data, making sure that they are coded with the necessary metadata, thinking about how they will be stored and processed etc. 

Job Duties will include: consulting with the PI and other researchers involved in the project; interfacing with ACT Study staff who steward the records to be digitized; researching and providing advice on SimpleIndex and/or other OCR software packages; designing a workflow; designing an architecture for metadata and file naming and storage; completing the scanning and digitization; quality-checking the resulting outputs. 

Location of work: will be primarily at the ACT Study offices on Nickerson Avenue, and/or at the main offices of the Kaiser Permanente of Washington Health Research Institute in the Denny Triangle area of Seattle. The successful candidate may need to go through an approval process to gain the necessary permissions to work with protected health information.

The position will commence: as soon as possible; contingent on good performance and funding availability, the position will likely be renewable through the summer and into the 2019-2020 academic year. 

Qualifications: previous experience with digitization of paper records; graduate-level training in information science highly desirable.

To express your interest in the position, please write to Janelle S. Taylor, Professor of Anthropology and PI on the grant, at

Please include your CV or resume, and the names and contact info for several references.

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Location: ACT Study and Kaiser Permanente of Washington Health Research Institute