Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
Highlights of the Year
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: New Software and Platforms


Keyword: Experimental design

Functional Description: Touchstone2 is a graphical user interface to create and compare experimental designs. It is based on a visual language: Each experiment consists of nested bricks that represent the overall design, blocking levels, independent variables, and their levels. Parameters such as variable names, counterbalancing strategy and trial duration are specified in the bricks and used to compute the minimum number of participants for a balanced design, account for learning effects, and estimate session length. An experiment summary appears below each brick assembly, documenting the design. Manipulating bricks immediately generates a corresponding trial table that shows the distribution of experiment conditions across participants. Trial tables are faceted by participant. Using brushing and fish-eye views, users can easily compare among participants and among designs on one screen, and examine their trade-offs.

Touchstone2 plots a power chart for each experiment in the workspace. Each power curve is a function of the number of participants, and thus increases monotonically. Dots on the curves denote numbers of participants for a balanced design. The pink area corresponds to a power less than the 0.8 criterion: the first dot above it indicates the minimum number of participants. To refine this estimate, users can choose among Cohen’s three conventional effect sizes, directly enter a numerical effect size, or use a calculator to enter mean values for each treatment of the dependent variable (often from a pilot study).

Touchstone2 can export a design in a variety of formats, including JSON and XML for the trial table, and TSL, a language we have created to describe experimental designs. A command-line tool is provided to generate a trial table from a TSL description.

Touchstone2 runs in any modern Web browser and is also available as a standalone tool. It is used at ExSitu for the design of our experiments, and by other Universities and research centers worldwide. It is available under an Open Source licence at