The CTS' Data Culture

Updated: Feb 25

Two things really make the California Teachers Study tick: our participants, and the tremendous data they continue to provide to this Study. Since 1995, 133,477 CTS participants have completed up to 6 study questionnaires, providing millions of data points. This information—ranging from health diagnoses over time to physical activity to diet and stress—is the bedrock of our research.


CTS research relies on CTS data. As the amount of CTS data has grown over the past two and a half decades, so too has the need to make sure that all of those data are stored, organized, and managed in ways that drive success. The millions of CTS data points all need to be findable, useable, and accessible to CTS researchers. Better data organization enables better research.


For the California Teachers Study, this has meant bringing in a new partner from Sherlock Cloud to help make the most out of the CTS data. Established by the San Diego Supercomputer Center, Sherlock Cloud is a HIPAA-compliant cloud environment tailored to healthcare research, meaning it meets the regulations outlined by the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The Sherlock team includes experts in data infrastructure—the software, hardware, storage, processing, and applications that are used to manage and use big data. Adding a new partner from Sherlock has helped the CTS optimize its data and ensure that CTS research can continue.


What specifically does this mean for the CTS team? First, the CTS has improved its data storage. Instead of having different parts of CTS data in different places, Sherlock has created a single source of CTS data, called a Data Warehouse. This means that everyone who is using CTS data for research can now access the Data Warehouse and use the most up-to-date data for their research at exactly the same time. In addition, researchers have new tools to manage and explore CTS data. Those tools include the software used to create the new interactive visualizations on the CTS website.


The CTS has many different data sources and data sets. These datasets are coalesced within the Data Warehouse. Researchers can look at topic-specific snapshots of these data in Data Marts, which enable researchers to use the data relevant to their research question.

It also means stronger data security and privacy protections. Sherlock’s expertise and services include an even broader range of tools and processes to make sure that CTS participants’ data, privacy, and confidentiality are always safe and secure. A lot of this is, as the saying goes, behind the scenes—but data security is always at the front of our minds.


When the CTS began, it used the best available tools for managing its data. Over time, new and different tools have emerged, and the CTS has updated its data strategy along the way. Today, the CTS is using those tools to instill an even more efficient, safe, and effective data culture. The goal of epidemiology is discovery and publication. With Sherlock as a partner, the CTS has modernized how we manage data to expedite this discovery and continue utilizing participants’ data to advance research into women’s health.

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