When deciding how to collect data on COVID-19 behaviours or response programmes the key factors to consider are:
Objectives - what is the purpose of the data collection (i.e. what questions do you hope to address)? This will guide selection of outcomes measures and methods of collecting data. Consider whether any useful secondary data is available to ensure only essential primary data is collected.
Movement restrictions – are there any national or regional restrictions in place that would prevent field staff from moving around to collect the data? This may include restrictions in place to reduce COVID-19 transmission, or due to ongoing security concerns (if in a fragile context) or natural disasters. Also consider whether your access to communities might change over the course of the outbreak, for example, due to enhanced restrictions, migration, containment, or refusal to participate, resulting in your organisation being unable to collect comparable data later on.
Local viral prevalence - is it safe to conduct data collection via the methods proposed given the stage of the outbreak? For example, is it safe for field workers to visit households at this time? If data collection is still safe, consider whether your teams and the respondents may also need access to personal protective equipment (e.g. masks) and provide training on physical distancing (including how to raise awareness of physical distancing to respondents), engaging with various gatekeepers and how to interact with communities at this time.
Capacity of field staff – do the field staff have sufficient time, knowledge about the COVID-19 situation in the geographic area of interest, and the relevant skills to undertake data collection via the proposed method?
Community perceptions – will the method of data collection proposed be accepted by the community? What could be done if you encounter participant resistance due to COVID-19 fears, fatigue (this is typically experienced when participants are approached to take part in multiple data collection processes by different organisations without seeing direct benefits from these studies) or resentment towards the data collection processes you are proposing? Is there a chance that your M&E methods could cause any harm or create misperceptions about COVID-19?
Funding - is the necessary funding in place to undertake the method chosen? If not, what data can be collected with the funds available and how? Do methods need to be revised so data quality is not compromised given budget constraints?
Project timeline - is there enough time to collect data via the proposed method?
These considerations should be weighed up against the need for reliable and useful data. The most robust and feasible data collection method should be selected.
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