WorldWide Antimalaria Resistance Network

They generate quality-assured, timely information to track the emergence and spread of drug resistance in malaria, and support and serve the global malaria community through provision of data resources, research tools and a global forum for exchange of scientific and public health information.

WWARN was planned and developed by a group of scientists from over 50 institutions and 28 countries.

Their Regional Centres play a central strategic outreach role within malaria-affected communities, and with offices in multiple locations around the globe, WWARN are helping to build sustainable, local expertise.

The Challenge

With regional offices in Southeast Asia, East and West Africa, the key aim of WWARN is to allow sharing of data between different Research Units across the world in order to build up a global picture of the emergence and spread of antimalaria drug resistance. In order to track the spread effectively, WWARN needed to be able to process donated studies at one of the regional centres.

With this in mind, the initial project was to set up an advanced global system which could be accessed from WWARN’s offices worldwide to upload processed studies and content from any of the malaria-endemic countries around the globe.

The challenge set by WWARN was to create a flexible workflow solution for the upload, validation and verification of these studies, and which could be used to build advanced workflows.

The group had several further specific requirements within this, including the ability to customise content relationships and metadata, and to search and filter within both content files and metadata. The user interface needed to be customisable and extensible, with the capability of displaying workflow dialogs and metadata forms.

WWARN considered carefully what they would ideally need from a workflow solution, and came up with a list of requirements:

  • Flexible workflow solution that can be used to build advanced workflows
  • Custom content metadata
  • Custom content relationships
  • Metadata search feature
  • Extensible user interface that can display custom workflow dialogs and custom metadata forms
  • Search within content files
  • Filter search result on specific type of data file
  • Support from large community

The Approach

Alfresco was chosen due to its very flexible and customisable platform, which is extensible on both the repository level and the user interface level. Alfresco also comes with JBOSS jBPM, a fully integrated workflow engine for building advanced workflows, which was very important for the WWARN project. Another positive factor was the high level of support available from the Alfresco open-source community. Alfresco was leveraged and integrated with WWARN’s existing custom document upload system via CMIS, which enables sending of document information between CMS systems in a standard way. Ixxus worked in conjunction with WWARN to create a proof-of-concept solution with a custom advanced workflow for Clinical Studies. A custom content model was also built, to describe the content, and the relationships between content, in this domain. Ixxus configured the user interface to display both the custom clinical workflow and the custom model for the domain. Ixxus also customised the content upload dialog so it was possible to set up relationships between content whilst content was being uploaded.

The Solution

WWARN’s existing system was built around XML, and was used to submit and upload studies from research facilities around the world. WWARN required a method to take all of the study files which they were uploading, and put these into a Content Management System (CMS) in order to benefit from the built-in search capabilities, including the ability to search and filter within content files and metadata.

After an initial investigation using Share, Ixxus decided it was better to use a regular folder structure in the repository instead of using collaboration sites as only document content was going to be handled. Share was integrated into WWARN’s own system using CMIS as a standard interface, so that the existing WWARN user interface (UI) could be used to specify study files and upload them to Alfresco via CMIS.

WWARN were also using an online portal single sign-on, and Alfresco was required to integrate with this user directory. Ixxus successfully integrated the two, with the result that wherever users are, they can also access Alfresco via the portal.

Ixxus’ approach to the CMS itself was to split each study into its own individual folder structure within Alfresco. Whenever the WWARN UI is used to upload files via CMIS to the Alfresco repository, a new study folder is automatically created. Ixxus implemented a custom content model allowing users to search on custom metadata such as “Study ID” and to search on custom study types such as “Data Dictionary” and “Data File”. WWARN needed to be able to search specific files and study folders, so to do this Ixxus extended the advanced search functionality within Alfresco to allow it to search more specifically.

Within the existing system used by WWARN, there were a great deal of implicit workflows which were handled manually and without automation, resulting in inefficient use of time and resources. Ixxus coordinated with one of WWARN’s specialists in order to study which manual processes could be converted into an automated workflow, then used this information to build and implement a clinical study workflow within Alfresco. Whenever a new study is created via CMIS, an automated advanced custom workflow process is initiated, ensuring that study files are checked, audited, validated and verified (by curators, data managers etc). Reminders were also built into the workflow to ensure that people were alerted when they’d forgotten to carry out a task.

Results

Because there is concern that resistance to the gold standard antimalarial drug combination is spreading, speed, efficiency and global accessibility were the most essential elements to bear in mind when designing this document management and business process management system.

By automating workflow processes, WWARN have been freed up from a lot of administrative tasks, making the process of managing and sharing study data far more efficient and less time-consuming. Teams in different parts of the globe are able to easily process and share study data to the same cloud storage system, enabling them to access essential information quickly and with little effort in order to carry out research studies and draw wider conclusions about the spread of drug resistance to malaria; knowledge which is of pivotal importance in the battle against the disease.

With its inbuilt reminders, the system has made the processes of uploading and checking study content a lot more efficacious and accurate. Groups were implemented so that data managers are alerted to new tasks popping up (check study, etc) and can carry out the task themselves, or leave it to another data manager to do if they don’t have time. This means that workload can be shared more efficiently and tasks completed sooner. The workflow system implemented by Ixxus was for clinical studies only; this has been extended to other study types by the WWARN team.

Integration of Alfresco with the user directory meant that no matter where they were when they signed in online via the portal, they would automatically have access to Alfresco. This provided a valuable streamlining of the log-in process.

Ixxus worked with WWARN’s highly skilled team, providing them with full training in how to use the new CMS system and also how to use the build system provided by Ixxus in order to develop further customizations. The processes and workflows themselves are now fully managed and maintained by WWARN.

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