Frequently Asked Questions-The Common Cold Project - Carnegie Mellon University

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do I need to ask permission to use the data and/or conduct specific analyses?

2. Why don’t the variables in the Aggregated Data Set match the variables contained in each of the individual study data sets?

3. Were the studies conducted with the approval of an institutional review board?

4. What are my obligations if I publish a paper derived from Common Cold Project data?

5. How do I cite the data I analyze?

6. Why do some of the descriptions of protocols and measures seem less complete than others?

7. When will the PCS3 data and 5-study aggregated data set be available?

8. Whom can I contact if I have additional questions about the Common Cold Project?

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

1. You do not need to obtain permission in order to use Common Cold Project data or to conduct specific analyses.  However, in order to access the data, you need to complete a registration form indicating your agreement with the terms of data use in order to access the data.  We also request that you complete the data analysis form that asks you for information about which data set(s) you plan to use and the primary research questions you plan to address.

2. As discussed elsewhere, we have designed this website so that investigators can combine data across any or all of the 5 cold studies when the appropriate variables are available.  A major challenge in accomplishing this aim was that the same construct was sometimes represented differently in one or more of the studies.   For example, the anxious mood subscale that was computed from participants’ reports of daily emotional states while in quarantine was comprised of 4 items in PCS1, 3 items in PCS2, and 2 items in PMBC and PCS3.  It is important to remember that these studies were all designed individually, and not with the intent of being combined.  Measures for each study were chosen because they best represented our view of a variable at the time of designing a particular study or because they best fit the questions we were addressing in a particular study.  The idea of aggregating these studies did not arise until after the fact. 

In order to use such variables in the aggregate data set, we needed to homogenize them, i.e., use the same definitions.  Consequently, there are key variables in the aggregate data set that are different than the same variables in the original individual data sets.  In most cases, the differences are trivial.  However, they are important for accurately defining variables used in aggregate analyses.  It is also important that investigators analyzing an individual data set (especially those replicating previously reported analyses) to use the original variables from the individual studies.

Another issue of importance involves the publication of findings derived from aggregated data that replicate published results that were derived from a specific study’s data set.  To avoid redundancy, we recommend that investigators conduct secondary analyses excluding the previously published data.  

3. All 5 studies received approval from the relevant institutional review board(s).  Specific details regarding participant informed consent are available on the Human Subjects page.      

4. If you publish a paper using Common Cold Project data, we request that you complete the CCP Data Set Publication form.

5. See Citation Guidelines.

6. The decision to aggregate, archive, and document the data collected during the 5 cold studies was not made until well after the first four studies had been completed.  Although we tried to the best of our ability to retrieve as much of the original documentation materials as possible, some information inevitably was lost.

7. Data from PCS3 will be made publicly available by the end of September, 2015.  At that time, an updated version of the Aggregated Data Set that includes data from all 5 studies also will be released.

8. Questions or comments about any aspect of the Common Cold Project website or data archive can be sent to