Challenges and solutions to collecting biological data in the social sciences

Challenges and solutions to collecting biological data in the social sciences

Date: Monday 23 May 2022, 4.00PM - 6.00PM
Location: Online
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Section Group Meeting
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Combining biological and social data is an exciting new development which hopes to bring together the strengths of probability sampling from social science with the precise and in depth measurements from the health sciences. This approach has been recently implemented in large studies such as panel studies, cohort studies and ageing studies. Despite the value of these new data, combining these two different methodologies for data collection does bring challenges. In this event we will be discussing some of these challenges as well as possible solutions.

The event will include four presentations and a discussion:

Collecting biomeasures: Experiments on a longitudinal survey using nurses, interviewers, and online interviewing - Jonathan Burton (University of Essex)

Participant-collected biological samples in social surveys: the feasibility of vaginal swab collection - Anne Conolly (the National Centre for Social Research) and Professor Nigel Field (UCL)

Collection and storage artifacts in DNA Methylation - Colter Mitchell (University of Michigan)

Interviewer and Nurse Effects in Biosocial Survey Measurements - Joseph W. Sakshaug (Institute for Employment Research & LMU-Munich) and Sophia Waldmann (Institute for Employment Research)

Discussion

Olga Maslovskaya (University of Southampton)

Times are BST

 

Abstracts:

Collecting biomeasures: Experiments on a longitudinal survey using nurses, interviewers, and online interviewing

Jonathan Burton, Tarek al Baghal, Michaela Benzeval, Thomas F. Crossley, Meena Kumari (University of Essex)

Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) used nurses to collect biomeasures at Waves 2 and 3 of the study. Since then, the survey has moved to a mixed-mode design. In advance of another round of biomeasure data collection in 2024, we used the UKHLS Innovation Panel (IP12) to test the effectiveness of collecting biomeasures online or using interviewers, compared to a nurse collection. In this presentation we will present the basic design of IP12, the response to the survey and the take-up rates of the biomeasures across modes, and the results of other experiments conducted as part of IP12 on the effect of offering feedback on biomarker take-up, and encouraging participants to get their blood pressure measured before the interview.
 
Participant-collected biological samples in social surveys: the feasibility of vaginal swab collection
Anne Conolly (the National Centre for Social Research) and Professor Nigel Field (UCL)
 
Biological samples provided in social surveys are often collected by the participant themselves. For example, urine and saliva samples have always been ‘self-collected’ although typically the process has been managed by a trained fieldworker. In recent years, the range of samples commonly provided directly by the participant has widened, notably COVID-19 swabs and finger-prick blood samples. The packaging and dispatch of self-collected samples is also frequently undertaken by study participants.

We present findings from a pilot study for the fourth National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-4) where we tested the feasibility of self-collected vaginal swabs sampling for key sexually transmitted infection (STI) in face-to-face and remote interviews for the first time in a UK household survey. We explore outcomes under different collection protocols, interviewer and participant feedback and recommendations for the future stages of the survey.
 
 
Collection and storage artifacts in DNA Methylation
Colter Mitchell, Lisa Schnepper, Jonah Fisher, Daniel Notterman, and Jessica Faul (University of Michigan)
 
DNA Methylation is rapidly becoming a key biomarker of both disease and exposure in the health and social sciences. It is an epigenetic mechanism involved in gene expression and several biological processes, and because DNA methylation can change over time it is a proven biomarker and potentially a mechanism linking environmental exposures to health. Larger field-based studies have incorporated DNA methylation primarily by utilizing stored DNA or by collecting it using the well tested genetic collection protocols. However, DNA methylation is not as stable as DNA and the effects of different collection and storage protocols on DNA methylation have not been examined. This study utilizes a lab-based experiment of collection of blood and saliva. Blood was collected using EDTA, Heparin, and PAXGene collection vacutainers. These kits were stored at 4°C at 0, 1, 2, 3 and 7 days before extraction and storage at -80°C. Saliva was collected in Oragene collection kits and stored at 20°C (room temperature) for 0, 3, 6, 8, and 12 months before DNA extraction and storage at -80°C. These mimic common collection strategies and times for storage conditions prior to extraction in many field-based studies. Results suggest that even under the most extreme conditions of the experiment DNA methylation measures (i.e. epigenetic clocks and other scores) remain relatively robust. Methylation derived from saliva does appear more variable and susceptible to degradation over time compared to blood, but both are well within most quality control metrics. Comparing over collection strategies suggests much more variation within samples due to batch effects than normal collection effects. Both saliva and blood collected within normal processing timeframes will provide robust DNA methylation measures.     
 
 

Interviewer and Nurse Effects in Biosocial Survey Measurements

Joseph W. Sakshaug (Institute for Employment Research & LMU-Munich) and Sophia Waldmann (Institute for Employment Research)


 
 

Speakers

Anne Conolly – the National Centre for Social Research
Colter Mitchell – University of Michigan
Jonathan Burton – University of Essex
Joseph W. Sakshaug – Institute for Employment Research (IAB) & LMU-Munich, Germany
Nigel Field – University College London
Sophia Waldmann – Institute for Employment Research
 
Organiser: Alexandru Cernat (University of Manchester) and Olga Maslovskaya (University of Southampton) 
Organiser Group: RSS Social Statistics section
 
RSS Fellows: Free
Non-Fellows: £10
 
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