The scientific environment for this collaborative group has been highly successful for many of the past epidemiologic and genetics investigations that have emerged from the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. In particular, the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center (HRC) has been the home for the Framingham Osteoporosis Study over the past 18 years. Over this time, we have successfully completed three Framingham field studies, and have recently completed our fourth field study, collecting bone measures (hip and spine BMD, whole body lean mass) and are actively ascertaining fractures. Recently, we finalized a novel phenotype derived from quantitative computed tomography of the spine with our co-investigator, Dr. Mary Bouxsein from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
The Musculoskeletal Research Center (MRC) at the Institute for Aging Research at HRC is directed by Douglas P. Kiel, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Director of Medical Research at HRC, and Dr. Marian T. Hannan, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Senior Scientist. The MRC includes musculoskeletal epidemiologists, Drs. Robert R. McLean, Elizabeth J. Samelson, David Karasik and Yi-Hsiang Hsu who are members of the Genetic Epidemiology Group, and Sarah Berry. MRC staff includes statistical programmers, bone density technologists, project directors, coordinators, and assistants. Our major collaborations are with the Center for Advanced Orthopaedic Studies at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the Department of Biostatistics at Boston University School of Public Health, the University of California, the University of North Carolina, and the Hospital for Special Surgery in NYC.
The Framingham Osteoporosis Field Study has study space in the Framingham Heart Study clinic building called the Perini Building, in Framingham, MA where participants will undergo the Osteoporosis Study exam (HR-pQCT measures, wholebodyBMD by DXA, and study questionnaire).
The computing environment at Hebrew SeniorLife provides access to multiple technologies, software and services that enable a highly flexible and scalable infrastructure. Following is a brief overview of these technologies and services:
Servers: Our current technology environment supports over 45 servers servicing over 700 computers and 1600 users. HSL’ s servers run multiple operating systems including VMWare Hypervisor, Microsoft Windows Server and RedHat Linux, which support large research systems and cluster configurations. Databases: HSL supports Microsoft SQL Server platforms including SQL Server 2003 and 2008. HSL also has experience with the Oracle database platform as well as the experience with open source products such as MySQL and PostgreSQL. HSL also provides database administration services including analysis, design, construction, security planning, performance management, backup and recovery services for all database platforms ensuring high availability and protection of all HSL data assets.
Application Software: HSL operates a variety of application software that facilitates collection of research data, management of day-to-day operations and collaboration with external parties and study participants. Specifically, the informatics team supports the SIR Relational Database Management and Application Development System, which is used primarily in research and scientific applications. In addition, the informatics core provides access to electronic data capture (EDC) systems such as REDCap and OpenClinica. These tools are used to create electronic case report forms to collect research data using Web-based technologies. Furthermore, Web-based content management systems, document sharing applications (i.e. Microsoft Sharepoint) and project management tools are also available to help manage research activities.
Statistical Analysis: HSL maintains a robust set of statistical analysis tools and technologies that allow flexible and creative data manipulation, analysis and mining techniques. The toolsets includes SAS, SPSS, Splus, R, SigmaPlot and an array of business intelligence and reporting tools that allow HSL the ability to provide both written and graphical analysis of complex data scenarios. Scientific software includes MATLAB and C++. HSL also maintains a 64-core compute cluster for the analysis and manipulation for bioinformatics and related high-throughput data formats.
Networks: HSL’s main campus has a Local Area Network (LAN) that accommodates 10MB and 100MB to the desktop supporting more than 500 computers and thousands of users. HSL also supports integrated wireless 802.11 and cellular WiFi networking supporting multiple mobile applications. HSL’s LAN connects to the enterprise Wide Area Network (WAN) that connects multiple Senior Housing complexes, our Continuing Care Retirement Community, Adult Day Health and other operations including the Harvard Medical School and affiliate hospitals. The network infrastructure is managed centrally and monitored continuously by the corporate Information Technology (IT) Department. Our networks are also capable of global extension via secure internet access using Virtual Private Networking (VPN).
PC/ Laptops / PDAs: HSL standardizes on Lenovo and Dell computing platforms for our PC and servers respectively. HSL has standardized on the Windows platform with an Active Directory security architecture, which provides robust user authentication and authorization schemes. HSL also supports many other types of hardware including tablet-based, smart phones and other mobile devices. However, strict security and integrity controls are in place to ensure secure, compatible integration with our network infrastructure and regulatory policies.
Security: HSL has several lines of service that are considered Covered Entities under the federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Although not required, HSL treats all lines of business as HIPAA locations and hold them accountable to these security standards. Careful planning goes into securing and monitoring all electronic information including accessibility, transmission encryption and physical protection of data at all facilities. HSL maintains several overlapping policies and procedures that ensure compliance with HIPAA and related regulatory guidelines.
Technical Support: HRC’s Information Technology department provides a full range of support services including technical operations of the computing infrastructure, computer operations, systems and network management as well as support for all software and application systems. A state of the art help desk system ensures quality help desk support and service level agreements for prompt support and resolution of problems.
Databases: HRC supports Microsoft SQL Server platforms including SQL Server 7, SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 2003. HRC also has experience with the Oracle database platform as well as the experience with VAX database systems including SIR, a VAX oriented Database Management System. HRC also provides database administration services including analysis, design, construction, security planning, performance management, backup and recovery services for all database platforms ensuring high availability and protection of all HRC data assets.
Linux Cluster: In addition to the computer resources, statistical genetics investigators have access to a high performance Linux compute cluster, dedicated to genetics research in the Framingham Study. This is a Dell computer cluster configured with five compute nodes. Each node contains two Quad-core 2.8 GHz Intel Xeon processors; the head node has 16 GB of memory and the slave nodes have 1GB of memory. Each compute node has an 80 GB hard drive. The storage node provides 1.2 TB of high-speed storage. The head node controls access to the compute nodes from the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center intranet. The Linux compute cluster runs Redhat Enterprise Linux (kernel 2.6.8-42), and is dedicated to the genetic analyses and genome-wide association analyses of the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. The Linux compute cluster is housed in a high security machine room maintained by the HSL Information Technology (IT) Department. Anyone entering the machine room must be accompanied by the IT personnel.
The Linux compute cluster is located within its own Virtual local area network (VLAN) behind the HRC firewall, which is maintained by Hebrew Rehabilitation Center IT personnel. It is doubly protected by firewalls. Access to the cluster VLAN is not directly accessible from either the INTERNET or from Hebrew Rehabilitation Center intranet.
For local users, the Linux compute cluster VLAN is only accessible by an authorized user via a VPN connection over a SSL encrypted web connection to the SSL-VPN Network Security Device. Once the SSL encrypted VPN connection has been established, the user may access the cluster using a SSH (Secure Shell) Client. Remote users can access the Linux compute cluster via a SSL encrypted website hosted on the SSL-VPN Security Device. To access the SSL-VPN Security Device, the remote user must logon against a RADIUS Server with their Active Directory Credentials. Once the remote user has logged on and the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encrypted VPN connection has been established, he/she may connect to the cluster via A SSH Client.
Data Sharing: HRC uses the Accellion Data Sharing System® which is a security FTP server with 250GB hard disk space to store uploaded files and share large data files with other study sites.