Program at a glance 2021

Fieldwork in times of COVID-19

Session Organisers Dr Ulrich Krieger (SFB 884 Universität Mannheim)
Dr Carina Cornesse (SFB 884 Universität Mannheim)
TimeFriday 9 July, 13:15 - 14:45

In this session researchers and survey managers present how fieldwork procedures were adapted in times of a global pandemic. As face-to-face mode was not feasible survey procedures had to be adapted quickly and agile to conduct data collection in a safe manner while still provide high quality data to stakeholders and the research community.

Keywords: Fieldwork, COVID-19, Survey Operations

Lessons learned from Eurofound’s large-scale COVID-19 e-survey

Daphne Ahrendt - Presenting Author
Tadas Leončikas
Massimiliano Mascherini
Eszter Sandor

In April 2020, Eurofound launched a large-scale online survey to capture how the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting people’s lives and work. Entitled Living, working and COVID-19, the aim of the survey is to investigate the impact on well-being, work and telework and on the financial situation of people across the European Union. It includes a range of questions relevant to people across various age groups and life situations. Most of the questions are based on Eurofound’s European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) and European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS), while other questions are new or were adapted from other sources such as the EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC).Respondents were recruited via uncontrolled convenience sampling, specifically by publishing the link to the survey on social media and distributing it among Eurofound’s contacts and stakeholders, complemented by social media advertising, targeting hard-to-reach groups. The first round was carried out in April 2020, the second in July 2020 and a third round started on 15 February 2021. A panel element was introduced after the first round. Round 1 collected email addresses from respondents interested in participation in further survey rounds (in compliance with GDPR). As an incentive to participate in the survey, panel respondents are asked whether they would like to receive a personalised report of the results. The e-survey has been an interesting pilot project for Eurofound to test a new and for Eurofound non-orthodox data-collection method, while still covering the entire EU. In our presentation we will discuss some of the methodological challenges associated with the design of this non-probabilistic survey, explain weighting applied, and present the lessons learned to date. We will also present an initial assessment of the panel component of the e-survey and of the impact of follow-ups and appeals to complete the survey in increasing panel participation rates.

Adjustments to the FReDA-GGS design in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Dr Tobias Gummer (GESIS - Leibniz-Institute for the Social Sciences) - Presenting Author
Dr Claudia Schmiedeberg (LMU Munich)
Dr Martin Bujard (Federal Institute for Population Research)
Dr Pablo Christmann (GESIS - Leibniz-Institute for the Social Sciences)
Professor Karsten Hank (University of Cologne)
Dr Tanja Kunz (GESIS - Leibniz-Institute for the Social Sciences)
Dr Detlev Lück (Federal Institute for Population Research)
Professor Franz Neyer (Friedrich Schiller University Jena)

Since the spread of COVID-19 in January 2020, non-pharmacological interventions such as quarantine and social distancing have been issued by many countries. These interventions present new and severe challenges for conducting surveys, especially in face-to-face-mode. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions, the project teams of numerous surveys have halted fieldwork or postponed the start of the survey. Some survey programs even made extensive changes to the survey design. We argue that it is essential to give transparent, clear, and timely accounts of which decisions were made, why these decisions were made, and which further implications these decisions have for the affected surveys (e.g., budget, schedule, workload). Among other reasons these accounts will help to better understand effects of the COVID-19 period when analyzing survey data across time and when evaluating the quality of data collection during this period.
In the present study, we illustrate how the FReDA-GGS design was adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic. FReDA-GGS is a large-scale panel survey of the German general population that was scheduled to be fielded in 2020. We will detail the changes made to the FReDA-GGS design and provide the reasons for these decisions as well as our expectations for each change in the survey design. We compare the design as planned prior to COVID-19 to the final design to assess how COVID-19 affected the FReDA-GGS design. We pay special attention to the dimensions survey costs and project schedule.

Interviewing in the time of Covid-19: Adapting the Scottish Household Survey

Mr Chris Martin (Ipsos MORI) - Presenting Author

This presentation will discuss the challenges of adapting Scotland's largest household survey from a traditional face-to-face in-home survey to a push-to-telephone/video approach in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Scottish Household Survey is Scotland’s largest random pre-selected survey and has been at the centre of Scottish Government's evidence-based approach to policy. It had run continuously from its inception in 1999 until its suspension in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic. From 2012, the survey also incorporated the Scottish House Condition Survey, the national survey of the domestic housing stock measuring the condition and energy efficiency of homes.

Until the suspension, fieldwork was undertaken in-home. A 60-minute interviewer-administered, social interview covering a range of topics was followed, for a sub-sample, by a surveyor-led hour-long inspection of the inside and outside of respondent's homes.

Following the suspension of all face-to-face interviewing in Scotland, the survey approach was adapted to allow fieldwork to be undertaken remotely. A push to telephone/video approach was designed for the social survey, with all interviews undertaken by telephone or video. Advance materials asked householders to opt-in via an online portal. Additionally, telephone matching was attempted to enable a proportion of households to be approached by telephone. The questionnaire was amended as far as possible and online showcards were developed for some questions.

We will detail the revised approach, discuss the challenges faced, assess how far we were able to maintain the quality and utility of the data, and reflect on lessons for future survey design.

Collecting survey data among the 50+ population in Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic

Dr Michael Bergmann (Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA)) - Presenting Author
Dr Salima Douhou (Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA))

The COVID-19 pandemic started to hit Europe early 2020 and even one year later affects virtually all aspects of life – including survey research. The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) was in the middle of its Wave 8 data collection when fieldwork had to be suspended in all 28 participating countries. Against this background, SHARE, like many other surveys, put a huge amount of effort into the realization of a survey that captures our population’s drastically changed living conditions during the pandemic: the SHARE COVID-19 Survey. This also meant an abrupt change of mode from f2f to CATI.
The first wave of the SHARE COVID-19 Survey was fielded from June to August 2020 and yielded about 60,000 individual interviews. While this dataset is interesting on its own, it constitutes only one piece in an ambitious long-term research strategy to understand the non-intended consequences of epidemic control decisions and to devise improved health, economic and social policies to make healthcare systems and societies in the EU more resilient to pandemics in terms of prevention, protection and treatment of the population 50+. Therefore, a second wave of the SHARE COVID-19 Telephone Survey is planned for mid-2021, while at the same time SHARE Wave 9 (planned as face-to-face interview) is in preparation for end 2020/beginning 2021.
There are many interesting methodological aspects to this process, but in this paper we will focus on the following: a) lessons learned from the 1st SHARE COVID-19 Survey, b) development of the second wave of the SHARE COVID-19 Survey against the backdrop of a second (or third) lockdown in many countries, c) development and testing of the Wave 9 instrument, while it is still uncertain whether face-to-face interviews will be possible, d) integration of two different modes and surveys in one development cycle and e) consequences of adopting of a flexible fieldwork design.
Despite fieldwork planned to take place mid/late 2021, we will already be able to evaluate our efforts regarding the 1st SHARE COVID-19 Survey, the state of data collection for the second wave, and the finished design process of Wave 9. We will give practical advice for researchers facing similar challenges. We will also describe where concessions had to be made to speed up a design process from CAPI to CATI and allow an infrastructure to run both modes simultaneously where in ‘normal’ times it would take a lot more time to set up and roll out. This holds in particular for complementing a regular face-to-face interview of a stable and concise core questionnaire targeted at the population 50+ with additional topical modules in between, using other interview modes to be able to react quickly to policy changes and external shocks, like an economic crisis or another epidemic outbreak.

Challenges to Face-to-face Surveys in Times of COVID: Experiences of the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey

Dr Paula Devine (ARK, Queen's University Belfast) - Presenting Author
Dr Katrina Lloyd (ARK, Queen's University Belfast)
Dr Martina McKnight (ARK, Queen's University Belfast)
Dr Dirk Schubotz (ARK, Queen's University Belfast)

The Northern Ireland Life and Times (NILT) survey is an annual cross-sectional survey running since 1998 ( It uses a multi-stage random sample design, with an achieved sample of 1200 adults aged 18 years or over living across Northern Ireland. The survey usually involves a face-to-face CAPI interview, followed by a short self-completion questionnaire. The data provide policy makers, researchers and media across the world with trusted and robust evidence on public attitudes. Time series is an important part of the survey, allowing us to explore if or how attitudes to key social issues change over time. In 2020, COVID restrictions meant that the usual face-to-face interviews were not possible.

This paper discusses the adjustments that the NILT team made in order to run the 2020 wave of the survey. The solution was a push to web format, but alternatives needed to found to allow the participation for respondents without broadband access. The paper will highlight the decisions made during this process, such as whether or not to introduce incentives, how to amend existing questions to fit the mode of administration, and how to give survey funders the confidence to continue their support. Key results from the 2020 survey will be compared with previous years, including response rates, demographic and socio-economic characteristics of respondents, and attitudinal data. Finally, the paper will pose the question of how to proceed with the 2021 survey.