ESRA 2019 Draft Programme at a Glance


Use of biomeasures in social surveys 1

Session Organisers Ms Anne Conolly (NatCen Social Research)
Dr Shaun Scholes (Research Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London)
Mr Matt Brown (Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL Institute of Education)
Dr Emily Gilbert (Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL Institute of Education)
TimeThursday 18th July, 09:00 - 10:30
Room D26

Many social surveys, both cross-sectional and longitudinal, include the collection of biomeasures. While traditional questionnaires can obtain self-reported assessments of general health, diagnosed disease and health behaviours, it is known that they can be prone to misreporting. Objective health measures can add to survey data considerably, enabling researchers to discover things that cannot be captured through self-reported measures. The inclusion of objective measurements within social surveys allows us to assess health with significantly greater accuracy and therefore to deepen our understanding of the interplay between social and biological factors in explaining human behaviour.
Such measurements encompass a range of anthropometric (e.g. height, weight, waist), functional (e.g. grip strength, balance), and sensory measurements (e.g. hearing), as well as biological samples (e.g. blood, saliva, urine), other physiological health measurements (e.g. blood pressure, lung function), and device-based measurement of physical activity.
Typically these data are collected either in clinics or at participants’ homes and may be carried out by trained field interviewers or by those with medical training and expertise (such as nurses). Technological advances and the development of minimally invasive techniques of data collection have increased the feasibility of collecting biomeasures at home and by fieldworkers with no medical training. Respondent-led collection of their own biomedical data is also now emerging as a data collection method – for example, some studies now ask respondents to self-collect dried blood spots. Additionally, the increase in the use of smartphone apps (e.g. activity tracking, food logs) and wearable technology (e.g. fitness trackers, smart watches, smart eyewear) has led to a growing interest in using such technology for data collection in survey research.
This session invites survey practitioners to share their experiences of incorporating the collection of biomeasures into social surveys. We welcome submissions relating to:
• Innovative approaches to the collection of biomeasures
• Comparisons of objective measures with self-reported data
• Analyses to assess the diagnostic ability of biomarkers
• Training of fieldworkers to collect biomeasures
• Respondent-led collection of biomeasures
• Methods to maximise response to and/or representativeness of biomeasures
• Collecting biomeasures in special populations (e.g. older people)
• Ethical challenges in the collection of biomeasures (e.g. relating to feedback of results, consent for ongoing use of biological samples)
Papers need not be restricted to these specific examples.

Keywords: biomeasures, health data, biosocial, biomarkers

Testing approaches to respondent self-collection of biological samples on the 12th Innovation Panel of Understanding Society

Miss Hannah Carpenter (Kantar Public) - Presenting Author

The 12th Innovation Panel of the Understanding Society study is focused on health and is collecting a range of biomeasures. In particular the study aims to compare whether respondent self-collection of certain biological samples can be a viable (and much cheaper) alternative to nurse fieldwork.
The approach being taken is to randomly allocate households in the Innovation Panel to three groups: web first, CAPI first with interviewers, and CAPI first with nurses. For the first two groups respondents will collect their own hair and dry blood spot samples, while for the third group nurses will collect these samples along with whole blood.
Where people take part online they are posted hair and dry blood spot sampling kits, and where they take part with an interviewer these kits are left behind for the respondent to use. Respondents then post back the samples themselves.
Some of the key aims of the study are to measure whether self-collected samples are good enough be used for analysis, and also what proportion of respondents return these samples.
At the time of the conference fieldwork will be part way through and we will not yet know how the self-collected samples compare to samples collected by nurses in terms of the ability to analyse them. Instead this paper will focus on the development work happening in advance of fieldwork to test procedures, instructions and equipment for sample self-collection. This development work includes two rounds of testing of instructions and equipment for hair and dry blood spot collection, as well as a full pilot. The paper will cover the challenges faced in designing the approach to respondent self-collection of these samples, and the methods the study is using to overcome these.
We should also have some very early data on the proportion of respondents returning the samples, particularly for the web first group.


Centrifuging Blood Samples in Respondents’ Homes: Lessons from NCDS

Dr Erica Wong (Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL) - Presenting Author
Mr Matt Brown (Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL)
Mr Bernard Steen (NatCen Social Research)
Ms Marta Mezzanzanica (NatCen Social Research)
Ms Kavita Deepchand (NatCen Social Research)

The collection and analysis of blood samples in large-scale surveys provide invaluable data for the assessment of health pathways and outcomes. Many assays require blood samples to be separated into component parts via centrifugation. When blood samples are collected in the homes of survey participants it is common practice for samples to be sent to laboratories via post where they are centrifuged on receipt. The delay between collection and centrifugation results in degradation of blood samples which can reduce the number of assays that can be conducted. For example, some innovative assays such as NMR metabolomics and proteomics require that blood is centrifuged immediately after collection. To ensure that such assays can be conducted, blood samples need to be centrifuged in respondents’ homes which presents unique challenges and opportunities for survey design and fieldwork.

Venous blood collection and in-home centrifugation will be conducted as part of a larger battery of bio-measure collection in the 10th wave of the National Child Development Survey, a longitudinal cohort study of people born in England, Scotland and Wales in a single week in 1958. With an expected sample size of over 12,000 people, this will be the first time in-home centrifugation of blood samples has been conducted on this scale in a social survey in Britain. This presentation will describe the results of our piloting work (N=75) which tested the feasibility of in-home centrifugation. In-home centrifugation was shown to be successful; that is, it was logistically feasible and resulted in quality samples for the desired analyses. We will discuss the challenges as well as the lessons learned from developing a home centrifugation protocol, including the choice of blood tubes, equipment, procedure, and nurse training.


Representing the Brain: Collecting a Population-Based Brain Imaging Study of Adolescents

Dr Colter Mitchell (University of Michigan) - Presenting Author

Over the last two decades social and developmental neurosciences have begun to map the relationships between brain structure and function and more classic social science measures (i.e. psychological processes, social context, life course experiences, and even to later behavior and health). This research has promised (and to a small degree yielded) a new understanding of human behavior, promising interventions, and personalized health. However, a limitation of this fast moving research is that most findings are based on small samples of convenience. Indeed most studies draw from recruitments in psychology and psychiatry departments, clinics and hospitals—yielding samples that are highly educated, upper middle class, Western, and predominately white. Furthermore, our understanding of individual differences may be distorted by unrepresentative samples, undermining findings regarding brain–behavior mechanisms. In this paper we document our experience, procedures, and preliminary findings conducting a population-based brain imaging study of adolescents. We drew a subsample of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study to spend a day participating in our study, including: clinical interviews, behavioral assessments, bio-specimen collection and MRI. This project is the first fMRI study as well as the first study of attention bias to examine a population-based adolescent sample. In addition, this well-characterized sample includes a large proportion of youth who are African American as well as adolescents from the poorest segment of the community; two groups that are historically underrepresented and underserved. We recruited 237 adolescents from 429 eligible FFCW participants in the subsample, resulting in a fairly large MRI study. We present findings related to unit and item nonresponse and data quality. We compare our findings to other, non-representative, imaging data and discuss differential consent to the collection of neuroimaging. We conclude with a discussion of nonresponse and sampling weights—something that has only recently been discussed in the neuroimaging research literature.


Collecting social and biomedical data in a longitudinal survey: a comparison of two approaches

Mr Matt Brown (Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL Institute of Education) - Presenting Author
Dr Emily Gilbert (Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL Institute of Education)
Dr Lisa Calderwood (Centre for Longitudinal Studies, UCL Institute of Education)
Ms Kate Taylor (NatCen Social Research)
Ms Hannah Morgan (NatCen Social Research)

Collecting biomeasures within social surveys is increasingly common. The research potential which this opens up is significant, but so are the operational challenges. Some studies use a two-step approach where interviewers contact and interview participants and a nurse collects the biomeasures in a second visit. A disadvantage of this approach is inevitable attrition between the interview and the biomeasures. Some studies train interviewers to collect biomeasures but there remain questions about whether the quality of data collected is comparable to that collected by a nurse, and interviewers cannot be trained to conduct all biomeasures (e.g. the collection of intravenous blood). Other studies invite participants to visit clinics, but this can be very costly in a large-scale national study. There is no consensus on the optimal strategy for combining interviews with the collection of biomeasures.

The 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) is a birth cohort study which began in 1970. The 11th sweep took place between 2016-18 and involved an interview and a series of biomeasures including the collection of a blood.

Initially, fieldwork was conducted using a new approach where nurses were trained to contact participants and conduct the interview and biomeasures in one visit. It was hoped that this would: i) maximise response to the biomeasures by reducing attrition between the interview and nurse visit ii) maximise the quality of the biomeasures collected, iii) increase efficiency and reduce costs. Mid-way through fieldwork BCS70 switched to using interviewers to conduct the interview and nurses to collect the biomeasures in a separate visit. This presents a unique opportunity to evaluate the success of the two approaches. The paper will compare the 'nurse-only' and two-stage 'interviewer>nurse' models in terms of interview response rates, biomeasure response rates and measures of data quality.