Adapting Research Approaches for COVID-19 Decision-Making

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Two staff members doing research

As the development community responds to the global COVID-19 pandemic, MSI wants to ensure that our partners and clients have access to accurate and timely information for decision-making.

COVID-19 creates new challenges for responsibly conducting the high-quality research—i.e., assessments, evaluations, and studies—necessary to inform decisions. International and local travel restrictions and social distancing practices, for instance, require changing how we manage research teams and substantively affect how we collect primary data. As MSI adapts our research practices to COVID-19, we are finding that many of the methods and management processes we developed for working in insecure situations also apply in health-insecure contexts.

Our adaptations run through the entire research cycle, from design to analysis and reporting. The constraints imposed by COVID-19 underscore the need for efficient research designs that use context-appropriate methods to produce the right information at the right time. We are also adapting how research teams collaborate to plan research and analyze data. Although less efficient and participatory, online collaboration platforms such as Skype or Microsoft Teams offer viable alternatives to onsite planning and analysis workshops.

Because it requires direct interaction with individuals, primary data collection is especially vulnerable to insecurity and health risks. The most suitable data collection methods depend on context-specific circumstances. In different situations, we have conducted interviews by telephone, transported research subjects out of insecure areas, found accessible proxy populations, and used remote sensing techniques. To manage data quality when key technical specialists cannot be in the field, we thoroughly train interviewers and establish processes for monitoring data collection and giving field teams timely feedback.

MSI has developed this white paper, which more fully discusses how we are adapting research methods in the face of new challenges.

Learn more about our monitoring, evaluation and learning services.


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