2016 summer institute

Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA): Investigating Biopsychosocial Processes in Context

Presenters: Joshua Smyth, Ph.D., Kristin E. Heron, Ph.D., Michael A. Russell, Ph.D.

Date: July 21-22, 2016

Venue: Penn State, University Park, PA

Workshop information

The objective of this workshop is to provide an introduction to the field of Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) for drug abuse researchers with little or no experience with this methodological approach. The workshop will give an overview of both the why and the how of designing research studies that include EMA approaches, including introducing practical components such as study design and analysis, and will touch upon other ambulatory assessment methods as time permits.


The prerequisites for this workshop are working familiarity with the concept of within-person processes and graduate-level statistics training for the behavioral or health sciences up through linear regression (usually two semesters of course work). Basic familiarity with survey design and/or the SAS statistical language is helpful, but not required for participation. Participants are expected to have no or little experience with EMA.


Workshop time will be spent in lecture, practical activities, computer statistical exercises (using SAS), and discussion. At the workshop, participants will be provided with a handout of curated lecture content, statistical computer exercises and output, and suggested reading lists for future reference. Participants will also develop an EMA study idea in a small group, with the presenters consulting on this process. There will also be the (optional) opportunity to briefly discuss individual EMA study ideas and designs with the presenters at the end of the workshop.

Computer requirements

Participants are encouraged to bring a laptop so that they can participate in computer exercises and analyze data. To conduct analyses at the workshop, SAS Version 9 for Windows must be installed on the laptop prior to arrival. Data will be made available at the workshop for these exercises.

Topics to be covered

  • Conceptual introduction to ecological momentary assessment (EMA)
  • Logistics of EMA design
  • EMA study implementation
  • Introduction to multi-level modeling (MLM) for analyzing EMA
  • Designing an EMA study (small group activity)

In addition to the above topics, there will be hands-on computer exercises for data analysis, open discussion times, question/answer periods, and the (optional) opportunity to consult briefly with workshop presenters on your own EMA research designs and topics.

How to attend

Enrollment is limited to 40 participants to maintain an informal atmosphere and to encourage interaction between the presenters and participants, as well as among participants. We give priority to individuals who are involved in drug abuse prevention and treatment research or HIV research, who have appropriate statistical background to get the most out of the Institute, and for whom the topic will have a direct and immediate relevance to their current work. We also aim to maximize geographic and minority representation.

The 2016 Summer Institute application deadline has passed. Applicants will be notified about decisions by Friday, May 13, 2016.

Once accepted, participants will be emailed instructions about how to register. The registration fee of $395 for the two-day Institute covers all instruction, program materials, refreshment breaks, and lunch each day. Participants are encouraged to bring their own laptop computers for conducting exercises.

Review our refund, access and cancellation policies.


Joshua Smyth, Ph.D.

Joshua Smyth, Ph.D., is Professor of Biobehavioral Health and Medicine and Associate Director, Social Science Research Institute, Penn State University.

Dr. Smyth is an expert in ecological momentary assessment (EMA) and other ambulatory assessment methodologies. He also oversees the dynamic real-time ecological ambulatory methodologies (DREAM) initiative at the Survey Research Center at Penn State. DREAM data collection techniques assess ongoing behavior, experiences, physiology, and environmental factors in people’s natural settings. Dr. Smyth collaborates with Center researchers on innovative acquisition and analysis of intensive longitudinal data.

Kristin Heron, Ph.D.

Kristin Heron, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Psychology, Old Dominion University.

Dr. Heron is an expert in ecological momentary assessment (EMA) approaches. She is the former director of the dynamic real-time ecological ambulatory methodologies (DREAM) initiative at the Survey Research Center at Penn State. Dr. Heron has worked extensively with Dr. Smyth and many other collaborators on EMA topics, with a particular emphasis on clinical applications.

Michael Russell, Ph.D.

Michael Russell, Ph.D., is Research Associate at The Methodology Center.

Dr. Russell specializes in the collection and analysis of ecological momentary assessment (EMA) and wearable device data. His specific research interests include understanding the dynamics of problem behavior, substance use, and emotion regulation using ambulatory assessment methodologies and statistical innovations.


The Pennsylvania State University, University Park campus


Funding for this conference was provided by R13 DA020334 from National Institute on Drug Abuse. The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

%d bloggers like this: