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Hi all. I’m one of the Darwin’s Ark researchers and I thought you might enjoy an update on what I was working on recently.
This week I’ve been getting down and dirty with the survey answers. We have a lot of focus on the genomics of the project, but the surveys alone are really important. They are telling us a lot about dog personality. My first step is figuring out each dog’s age at the time the surveys were filled out for that dog. It turns out to be a harder job than you might think because we originally had a free text entry field for dogs’ ages. So I’m working right now to turn that input into numbers – the stuff I’m working with ranges from things like “seven” to “three and a third” to “6 yrs, 1 mo”. All of this has to get turned into plain numbers (7, 3.3, 6.083). It’s taking a day or so, but when I’m done I’ll be able to move on to asking questions about things like “do answers to questions change based on the age of the dog we’re asking about?”
Oh boy, that sounds really tedious having to manually convert all those ages. What do you mean about answers changing based on the dog’s age? Like the way some behavioral traits tend not to manifest clearly until sexual maturity, or that owners tend to perceive dogs’ strengths and weaknesses differently depending on how old the dog is, or…?
I didn’t actually have to do all of them manually – I wrote a computer script to do a lot of them. The script itself involved a lot of “how many of them can I get automatically this way? How about this way?” but in the end it got most of them, leaving only a couple dozen maybe to do manually. Still took a few days!
So I’m not sure what I’ll find about differences by age, but I’d guess activity level might be one we’d see. Hopefully I’ll get to grips with this this week. If I find anything I’ll post here to let you folks know.
Should we be updating these surveys after a certain amount of time to make sure they’re accurate? Will you be able to see that and changes that may happen as the dogs age?
Great question. Right now we’re just looking at answers as a snapshot in time, and we ask that you NOT update them as the dog ages. (We take into account the dog’s age at the time the surveys were answered.) We do really want to put in place the ability to re-answer over time so we can track how personality changes over time. But we’re not there yet sadly.
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