JATOS isn’t Just Another Tool for Online Studies

The meaning behind the acronym JATOS is far too humble; JATOS is not Just Another Tool for Online Studies. What makes it unique from other open-source software (OSS) is it sets up and runs your studies on your own server. Why is this important? Because you keep complete control over who accesses your data. In other words, it’s NSA-safe. You won’t find those bold words too often.

My supervisor snuck me into what I thought was a workshop on SQL. Turns out I got more than I bargained for. It was a breath of fresh management tool air. JATOS was created by a couple, a psychologist and computer scientist, who have both worked in research and academia, and wanted to manage all their projects in one tool. I would go as far to say they’ve created a management tool and this is hands down the first management tool I have ever felt excited to try out (and I’ve tried out a fair few). Unfortunately, they are rarely seen in academia.

Why are academic (management) tools hard to find?

Most publishers are skeptical when it comes to data being stored online. Even though the data is anonymous and secure as possible, the data is with a 3rd party and that means it’s potentially available outside of the lab.That’s a big red flag when you’re trying to get your study published. This adds up to researchers being unaware of the benefits of management tools and instead think that the only way to manage all their projects is through emails and quick discussions in the corridor – management nightmare!

So what is JATOS and what does it do?

JATOS keeps all your information on your server (a.k.a. your laptop, PC, Mac), which means that it bypasses the publishing taboo of having your data floating around on the web. So publishers will be happy with you that your data isn’t with a 3rd party.

It’s also really easy to use. If anyone has used (or heard of) BaseCamp, JATOS follows the same philosophy. For those who haven’t heard of BaseCamp, JATOS has an easy-to-use General User Interface (GUI) with big friendly buttons and logical process flow to create, edit and archive all your projects. It guides you through each step of the process; create a project, add your lab partners (and restrictions if you don’t want them to have an all-access pass), add tasks, add sub-tasks, upload questionnaires, create tasks for experiments, download your data results in your preferred formats, basically everything you’ll need for your experiment.

That’s all well and good, but can I try it out?

Yes you can! They have a whole page of example studies for you to try, test, critique and give feedback. The best part is it is open source and you can find JATOS on GitHub.

Personally, I’d try the Go- / No-Go Task. This task is used a lot in both psychology and neuroscience experiments, and is always cropping up in research papers. The idea is simple. The experimenter tells you, “Press the F key when you see a blue circle. If you don’t see a blue circle, don’t press a key.”  Then the experiment starts and you do just that. The experimenter measures how many times you correctly pressed the F key, how fast you reactions were, and so on. Easy peasy.


Now you can play around with this task; edit it, change the colours, download your data, whatever you want. The example studies are there for you to have a practice of working in JATOS before using it for your own experiment. Isn’t that nice.

So to sum up, JATOS is designed to make your research life easier. It’s available for everyone and you have all to gain and nothing to lose by trying it out. Just don’t lose your computer…

P.s. I think I know why the JATOS logo is a picture of a dude with a rocket strapped to his back. Have you ever heard of a JATO (a.k.a. Jet Assisted Take Off)?

Written by Alison Holland

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All images are from jatos.org. Video can be found on YouTube.