Charles River Analytics Receives its First National Institutes of Health Grant to Develop Entity Resolution Software for HIV Researchers

Charles River Analytics Inc., developer of intelligent systems solutions, has announced it has been awarded its first grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). As part of the Semi-Automated Processing of Interconnected Dyads Using Entity Resolution, or SPIDER, program, Charles River will develop software for HIV researchers that will dramatically improve current methods for building participant risk networks.

Over the past two decades, researchers have applied social network analysis (SNA) to study the transmission of infectious diseases. This research has yielded valuable insight into the behavioral epidemiology of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI), but SNA tools can be difficult to use effectively. To address this, SPIDER will assist researchers in efficiently constructing HIV/STI risk networks from data collected on sexual and drug-related partnerships, with the goal of improving methodological quality, comprehensiveness, and standardization. While Charles River Analytics is designing SPIDER to address specific needs of HIV/STI researchers, it is also developing the system to be broadly applicable to other research domains.

“SPIDER software will enable researchers to more efficiently build study participant networks, with an immediate goal of resolving ambiguous references to the same participant within the network—a common challenge in many efforts,” explained Chris Hopkins, Principal Software Engineer at Charles River and Principal Investigator on SPIDER. “One of the program’s key features is the ability for individual researchers to easily develop and share tailored resolution algorithms and their settings with other researchers. This will result in a more rigorous methodological approach for our initial target audience of HIV researchers, but we believe we can easily extend these benefits to other research domains.”

Charles River is teaming with Dr. April Young of the University of Kentucky on the SPIDER effort, building upon previous collaborations, such as the READ-IT program for the Army Research Office. In READ-IT, Charles River developed a data collection and analysis tool for ethnographic researchers. Another related effort was DARPA’s GUARD DOG program, which aimed to help soldiers analyze human networks more quickly and identify key figures in real-time. Charles River developed a system to automatically identify and resolve duplicate entities within a network of people and organizations, providing this entity resolution for networks of millions of nodes and links.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute Of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R43MH106361. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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