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Communications within ISAAC

When ISAAC began in 1991, the Auckland centre was one of the first centres to commit to participate in ISAAC and undertake data collection. In 1992, I was appointed as ISAAC research assistant, responsible for the Phase One fieldwork in the Auckland region, which led to overseeing the national data collection for the six New Zealand centres. In 1993, Auckland was established as the ISAAC International Data Centre (IIDC) and appointed Tadd Clayton as Data Manager. In 1993 my responsibilities were expanded to become the IIDC Research Manager which involved coordinating the international centres and ensuring the fieldwork followed protocol. This involved an enormous amount of communication with the centres. In Phase One the principle method of communication with the Principal Investigators was by fax machine. It is amusing now to reflect on the amount of time spent standing beside the fax machine sending the centre report to collaborators, almost holding one’s breath in case the fax failed to send, (which it did on frequent occasions) and having to start all over again. Tadd also was an ‘avid’ user of the fax machine for his communications regarding the Phase One data checking and had similar experiences. When receiving documents back from the centres we would at times find pages missing due to failed fax attempts from the centres, which was as frustrating to the collaborators as to us in Auckland. As the fieldwork in Auckland was being undertaken I decided to document the methodology used to approach the schools and how it was undertaken in the schools. It became apparent that this information would be useful for other fieldworkers and these guidelines were subsequently circulated to the centres and made available from the ISAAC website (http://isaac.auckland.ac.nz/phases/phaseone/fieldguide/young.html). These have become a useful tool in assisting centres to follow the ISAAC protocol.

For Phase Three, the use of email had gained popularity and communicating with the centre Principal Investigators and collaborators became a lot less difficult. The centre report had been evaluated and was simplified for ease of understanding. This made it a lengthier document, so having email as the predominant mode of document transfer made life for the IIDC much easier (and less breath holding!).

The experience that Tadd and I have had communicating with the Phase One and Three Principal Investigators and collaborators has simply been a privilege. We have built up an amazing rapport with so many people, from so many different ethnically diverse communities. Due to the stability of the Data Manager and Research Manager, this rapport strengthened over time. With the ISAAC English language questionnaire having being translated into 53 languages, it would not be uncommon for misunderstandings to regularly occur. Although these did happen at times, usually about what the IIDC actually required, these were rare and very easily sorted out. It is humbling to have English as our primary language and have collaborators with English as a second language so enthusiastically embrace our language and have the determination to undertake the ISAAC fieldwork in their centre and to adhere to our documentation written in English. The international success of ISAAC is a tribute to the entire ISAAC worldwide collaboration.