You are here

Occupational self-coding and automatic recording (OSCAR): a novel web-based tool to collect and code lifetime job histories in large population-based studies.

Publication date: 

1 Mar 2017


Scand J Work Environ Health 2017; 43(2): 181-186.


De Matteis S, Jarvis D, Young H, Young A, Allen N, Potts J, Darnton A, Rushton L, Cullinan P.

Publication type: 



Objectives - The standard approach to the assessment of occupational exposures is through the manual collection and coding of job histories. This method is time-consuming and costly and makes it potentially unfeasible to perform high quality analyses on occupational exposures in large population-based studies. Our aim was to develop a novel, efficient web-based tool to collect and code lifetime job histories in the UK Biobank, a population-based cohort of over 500 000 participants. Methods - We developed OSCAR (occupations self-coding automatic recording) based on the hierarchical structure of the UK Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) 2000, which allows individuals to collect and automatically code their lifetime job histories via a simple decision-tree model. Participants were asked to find each of their jobs by selecting appropriate job categories until they identified their job title, which was linked to a hidden 4-digit SOC code. For each occupation a job title in free text was also collected to estimate Cohen's kappa (κ) inter-rater agreement between SOC codes assigned by OSCAR and an expert manual coder. Results - OSCAR was administered to 324 653 UK Biobank participants with an existing email address between June and September 2015. Complete 4-digit SOC-coded lifetime job histories were collected for 108 784 participants (response rate: 34%). Agreement between the 4-digit SOC codes assigned by OSCAR and the manual coder for a random sample of 400 job titles was moderately good [κ=0.45, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 0.42-0.49], and improved when broader job categories were considered (κ=0.64, 95% CI 0.61-0.69 at a 1-digit SOC-code level). Conclusions - OSCAR is a novel, efficient, and reasonably reliable web-based tool for collecting and automatically coding lifetime job histories in large population-based studies. Further application in other research projects for external validation purposes is warranted.