DSL / 4GL’s for eClinical

The evolution of the internet, and the enhancement of the user experience possibilities from a browser interface have made it possible since around 2010 to create Application Development Environments or ADE’s for database driven applications.Since 1980, the standard method of creating a bespoke database application was through the creation of an application using a Client/Server or standalone application development tool.  Toolsets such as Progress, Oracle Forms, Seachange 4GL, Powerbuilder and Informix  are such examples of systems that supported this market.In the early 2000’s things changed with the popularity of the internet.  The user experience available with internet applications – on a browser – was limited.  HTML version 1-3 only really supported basic interaction between the server and the client.   Event driven applications were not possible.Since around 2010 and the emergence of technologies such as HTML 5,  Ajax and Flash it has become increasingly viable to create developer and user experiences that match the earlier client/server application development & runtime environments.

So – when will we start to see full blown Web 4GL’s and Application Development Environments?

The first instances are beginning to appear – as DSL – or Domain Specific Languages & Environments.    The advantage that Domain specific solutions have, is that they can limit the required level of flexibility over a typical any industry/any application area solution.

eClinical 4GL?

So how might this effect the world of eClinical and in particular EDC?

EDC systems today have not generally been built around the architectural capabilities of virtualization of rich client experiences.   When a user sits down in front of – Oracle Inform Central Designer for example, they are using a regular software application to create XML (MedML) files that in turn are deployed to a single instance server environment.  This approach has not changed much since the early 2000’s.    So – whats really wrong with that?

And other companies – are they better?

Medidata have had a fully online build environment for many years,  but, the environment is largely a front-end to underlying database tables.   Metadata is largely defined in table contents. However it can be exported to an extended CDISC ODM.   A table driven approach is good in many ways.  It controls what can and cannot be done, and so the scope of potential testing and validation is controlled.   The downside is that it limits potential performance to the point and click speed, or, to the speed at which working with external tools apply.

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