Abstract

Highlights

Social contact survey data inform epidemic models, but may have associated biases.

We held focus groups of COVID-19 contact survey participants and non-participants.

Motivators for participation were “being heard” and “feeling useful”.

High contact numbers and uncertainty in reporting led to inaccuracies.

Financial incentives and provision of survey results may encourage participation.



Abstract

Background
Social contact survey data forms a core component of modern epidemic models: however, there has been little assessment of the potential biases in such data.

Methods
We conducted focus groups with university students who had (n = 13) and had never (n = 14) completed a social contact survey during the COVID-19 pandemic. Qualitative findings were explored quantitatively by analysing participation data.

Results
The opportunity to contribute to COVID-19 research, to be heard and feel useful were frequently reported motivators for participating in the contact survey. Reductions in survey engagement following lifting of COVID-19 restrictions may have occurred because the research was perceived to be less critical and/or because the participants were busier and had more contacts. Having a high number of contacts to report, uncertainty around how to report each contact, and concerns around confidentiality were identified as factors leading to inaccurate reporting. Focus groups participants thought that financial incentives or provision of study results would encourage participation.

Conclusions
Incentives could improve engagement with social contact surveys. Qualitative research can inform the format, timing, and wording of surveys to optimise completion and accuracy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100635
Number of pages12
JournalEpidemics
Volume41
Early online date22 Sept 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank all the participants of the focus groups for taking part, the University of Bristol student communications team for aiding with the recruitment process and our data manager, Alison Horne, for support with the CONQUEST survey data. The focus groups were funded by the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute. HC, EBP, SD, TS and RK would like to acknowledge support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at the University of Bristol. HC is additionally funded through an NIHR Career Development Fellowship [CDF-2018–11-ST2–015], which also funds TS. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care, or UKHSA. ATh is supported by the Wellcome Trust (217509/Z/19/Z) and UKRI through the JUNIPER consortium MR/V038613/1 and CoMMinS study MR/V028545/1. EBP, EN and AB are supported by UKRI through the JUNIPER consortium (Grant Number MR/V038613/1). EBP is further supported by MRC (Grant Number MC/PC/19067). RK is funded by the Wellcome GW4 Clinical Academic Training programme (203918). AT is supported by the Wellcome Trust (222770/Z/21/Z). Data are available at the University of Bristol data repository, data.bris, at https://doi.org/10.5523/bris.29p4r41hm0oz525k33jjvevrrd, along with the code that was used for the analyses.

Funding Information:
HC is a principal investigator on a grant funded by GlaxoSmithKline unrelated to this research. All other authors declare no competing interests.

Funding Information:
We would like to thank all the participants of the focus groups for taking part, the University of Bristol student communications team for aiding with the recruitment process and our data manager, Alison Horne, for support with the CONQUEST survey data. The focus groups were funded by the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute . HC, EBP, SD, TS and RK would like to acknowledge support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at the University of Bristol. HC is additionally funded through an NIHR Career Development Fellowship [ CDF-2018–11-ST2–015 ], which also funds TS. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care, or UKHSA. ATh is supported by the Wellcome Trust ( 217509/Z/19/Z ) and UKRI through the JUNIPER consortium MR/V038613/1 and CoMMinS study MR/V028545/1 . EBP, EN and AB are supported by UKRI through the JUNIPER consortium (Grant Number MR/V038613/1). EBP is further supported by MRC (Grant Number MC/PC/19067 ). RK is funded by the Wellcome GW4 Clinical Academic Training programme (203918). AT is supported by the Wellcome Trust ( 222770/Z/21/Z ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors

Keywords

  • social contact surveys
  • epidemic modelling
  • Infectious disease
  • mixed methods
  • focus groups
  • research engagement

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