Network Canvas

Funded by the National Institutes of Health – National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Award number R01DA042711.Contextual Data in HIV and Drug Research

Development, Hardening, and Dissemination of a Software Suite for the Collection of Complex Network and Contextual Data in HIV and Drug Research

A thorough understanding of population dynamics is vital for reducing the spread of infectious disease and for informing disease control, yet the collection, processing, and storage of complex network and contextual data pose enormous methodological challenges for researchers. This project aims to address this clear need by building upon software previously developed for a longitudinal cohort study (RADAR) to develop and sustain a relevant, customizable, and user-friendly software suite that simplifies the collection and management of complex structural data.

To achieve this goal, the project has two specific aims:

  • Extend and harden existing capabilities and build a standalone Network Canvas software suite that is a user-friendly, generalizable, and customizable tool that will accommodate multilevel, network, longitudinal, geospatial, contextual, and behavioral data without the requirement of technical expertise
  • Ensure the sustainability of the Network Canvas software suite through promotional work, engagement activities, and the production of strong training materials.

The Network Canvas software suite comprises three distinct components – the Architect, the Network Canvas Application, and the Server – which allows researchers to easily design bespoke interview protocols, deploy their protocols through a cross-platform responsive app, and securely store and export collected data on a back-end graph database. Informed by user-centered design principles, the software allows for quick and accurate capture of data from study participants on themselves and the people and places with whom they interact using a series of touchscreen interfaces. Researchers can easily navigate all three components of the suite, regardless of technical expertise, and leverage the social, relational and geospatial data they collect in near real-time to assess more nuanced associations between contextual factors and the spread of infectious disease.

Feedback from social and behavioral health researchers and others who have an interest in network data collection have informed the design and functionality of the suite at every stage of development. The software is entirely open source to ensure broad accessibility and enable contributions from across the research community.

Please visit for more information.

Click here to download the three applications of the Network Canvas Suite.

Network Canvas Introduction: 

Research Team: 

Principal Investigators:


Lead Developer:

  • Joshua Melville

Project Manager:

  • Kate Banner


Birkett, M., Melville, J., Janulis, P., Phillips, G., Contractor, N., & Hogan, B. (2021). Network Canvas: Key decisions in the design of an interviewer-assisted network data collection software suite. Social Networks, 66:114-124. doi: 10.1016/j.socnet.2021.02.003

Hogan, B., Janulis, P., Phillips II, G., Melville, J., Mustanski, B., Contractor, N., & Birkett, M. (2019). Assessing the stability of ego-centered networks over time using the digital participant-aided sociogram tool Network Canvas. Network Science, 1-19. doi:10.1017/nws.2019.27

Hogan, B., Melville, J., Phillips II, G., Janulis, P., Contractor, N., Mustanski, B., & Birkett, M. (2016). Evaluating the Paper-to-Screen Translation of Participant-Aided Sociograms with High-Risk Participants. In Proceedings of the 2016 Conference on Human Factors in Computing (CHI ’16). San Jose, CA.