Formal representation of ambulatory assessment protocols in HTML5 for human readability and computer execution

Nikolaos Batalas, Vassilis Javed Khan, Minita Franzen, Panos Markopoulos, Marije aan het Rot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
53 Downloads (Pure)


Ambulatory assessment (AA) is a research method that aims to collect longitudinal biopsychosocial data in groups of individuals. AA studies are commonly conducted via mobile devices such as smartphones. Researchers tend to communicate their AA protocols to the community in natural language by describing step-by-step procedures operating on a set of materials. However, natural language requires effort to transcribe onto and from the software systems used for data collection, and may be ambiguous, thereby making it harder to reproduce a study. Though AA protocols may also be written as code in a programming language, most programming languages are not easily read by most researchers. Thus, the quality of scientific discourse on AA stands to gain from protocol descriptions that are easy to read, yet remain formal and readily executable by computers. This paper makes the case for using the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) to achieve this. While HTML can suitably describe AA materials, it cannot describe AA procedures. To resolve this, and taking away lessons from previous efforts with protocol implementations in a system called TEMPEST, we offer a set of custom HTML5 elements that help treat HTML documents as executable programs that can both render AA materials, and effect AA procedures on computational platforms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2761–2776
Number of pages16
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • Ambulatory assessment
  • Data collection software systems
  • Experience sampling
  • HTML
  • Protocol representations


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