Researchers at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) have created a novel open-source statistics program that is student-friendly, intuitive and free for anyone to use. The program, JASP, includes both standard and more advanced techniques and presents a viable alternative to proprietary programs such as SPSS.
For several decades, students and researchers around the world have conducted their statistical analyses using proprietary software. Unfortunately, such software is expensive and often lacks more advanced (Bayesian) methods of analysis, providing students with an outdated and unrepresentative idea of what statistics is all about.
Many researchers have long felt that something should be done to improve the current situation. One such researcher is Eric-Jan Wagenmakers, professor at the UvA’s department of Psychological Methods, who several years ago obtained the European Research grant ‘Bayes or Bust’, which allowed him to assemble a team of software engineers and methodologists in order to create a free and more complete statistical software program. Their efforts eventually resulted in JASP. ‘Many researchers feel forced to use proprietary software for lack of a suitable alternative,’ says Wagenmakers. ‘Our goal was to provide both standard methods as well as Bayesian methods and to accomplish this without cost for the student.’
According to Wagenmakers, JASP boast several attractive features. ‘One of the great things about the program is that it is open-source and freely available for all platforms. Also, JASP was designed to provide its users with a smooth and intuitive experience and, more importantly, makes it easy for practical researchers to take advantage of Bayesian statistical methods.’ Since its initial release, the program has started to gain traction in the research community, says Wagenmakers. ‘Without any marketing to speak of, we’ve already seen thousands of downloads, and several universities have started to use JASP for their teaching.’
In the coming years Wagenmakers and his team aim to continue developing and optimising their software. ‘Our ERC grant officially runs until May 2017. Our long-term ambition, however, stretches well beyond this period and is geared towards expanding JASP’s user base and ensuring that our software keeps evolving. This will require additional sources of revenue, which is why we plan to offer technical support, provide user manuals, organise workshops and, of course, seek a more structural connection to the universities and institutes who directly benefit from the program.’