About the CRE

The CRE (Collaborative Research Environment) is a centralized, web-based data management system for common and spatial data with tools for data collection, data exchange, data analysis and visualization. It has low access requirements (as a web-based tool, no additional software is required), is easy to use and worldwide and around the clock available. All project data is stored in one central location in well-defined structures. It can easily be made accessible to all project partners and data monitoring as well as backing up the data is simplified this way.

The CRE: A centralized, web-based data management system

User and group management

An essential part of the CRE is the user and group management tool. When several persons work on the same dataset, it’s important to define roles, permissions and responsibilities:

  • Administrators take care of the overall operation of the CRE and the underlying technical infrastructure.
  • Data managers are responsible for the data structures; they define the variables, types and definitions of the data to be recorded.
  • Data collectors are responsible for the collection and entry of data.
  • Additionally, it’s possible to add users who only have read access to certain datasets. This way it’s possible to share data with other scientists or involve people for data monitoring and quality control.

User and group management in the CRE

Spatial data

A special feature of the CRE is the possibility to manage spatial data in a simple and user-friendly way without the need of complicated GIS software. Spatial data allows us to identify spatial patterns and can help to identify disadvantaged, undersupplied or eben hazardous places.

Spatial data entry

Statistics and data visualization

On-line tools for statistics and visualization allow immediate insights into the current and up-to-date stage of collected data and thus facilitate data monitoring and quality control.

CRE data visualization

Data export

As the CRE stores the data in a standardized way it is possible to convert it into different data formats. It is, for example, possible to convert and download the data in the Excel format in order to work with it with external software like Excel or SPSS. Or, in case of spatial data, conversion and download as KML file (for Google Earth) or as Shapefile (a spatial data format for professional GIS software) is possible. This way, data exchange is facilitated. The CRE keeps the up-to-data stage of data and makes it available, and when needed, a current data snapshot can be created and downloaded.

Data Export


The web application consists of a self-developed core component written in the PHP programming language. On top of that, several freely available open source components were included, among them the web-server software Apache HTTP Server, the database management system PostgreSQL with the spatial extension PostGIS and the web-mapping library OpenLayers.

Architecture of the CRE