COVID-19 has significantly changed the way we work. In March, we suspended all research activities involving in-person interactions and switched to phone surveys and remote working where possible. Seven months on, we are looking at how to adapt so that we can begin gradually resuming data collection activities.
As communities face the continuing impacts of the pandemic, generating quality evidence to inform decision-making is more important than ever. We are committed to carrying out research in a way that is safe for our respondents and for our staff. With that in mind, our team has developed a new protocol to help us decide, case-by-case, when it is safe to return to the field, and the measures we will put in place to ensure the health and safety of respondents and staff if we decide to do so.
Resuming data collection on a case-by-case basis
We will monitor a range of country- and project-level factors to decide whether to proceed with data collection projects.
At the country-level, we will look at COVID-19 metrics, the country status based on the IPA’s country status tracker, and the outcomes of consultations with ethics review boards and local research firms. We’ll consider proceeding with data collection if:
- COVID-19 metrics are below specific thresholds (outlined in the policy)
- The IPA country status is either green or yellow
- Ethics review boards or national research organizations are not actively discouraging field data collection.
We will then consider project-level factors, such as the age and vulnerability of the respondents, the level of proximity with study participants, and the location and number of study areas. If we decide the health and transmission risks of the project are low, we will discuss resuming data collection with the client.
Protecting respondent and staff health & safety in the field
Our data team has developed detailed protocols to follow to ensure the chances of respondents or staff contracting or spreading the virus are minimized for any projects that return to the field.
- Complying with government requirements and guidelines, including social distancing requirements and curfews
- Providing enumerators and if necessary, respondents, with personal protective equipment and training them on how to use it appropriately
- Regular hand-washing and sanitizing of all data collection materials
- Careful coordination of transport, accommodation, and the distribution of enumerators to study areas to minimize contact between enumerators
- Health screening and testing of enumerators prior to training or field work
- Health screening and referral of respondents in accordance with local health protocols
- Covering enumerators’ sick leave in case of infection or any requirement to self-isolate.