Collecting Quality Data: Do Researcher Profiles and Training Avoid or Create Bias?
School of Public Health Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) Bruxelles, Belgium
Disaster and Development, Applied Sciences Northumbria University Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
There are two factors that significantly affect the quality of data collected in household surveys that are not consistently addressed in international research projects, especially with research done in developed countries. These are the impact that both a researcher's identity and the site-focused interviewer training can have on the respondents and the research team.
A variety of reactions or biases can be evoked from a researcher's identity, depending on the community or the individual, during both qualitative and quantitative research. This is especially important in international research projects where researchers may have diverse backgrounds, and when cross-cultural understandings can be complex. The researcher's identity is used as criteria for selection in some qualitative methodologies but less in quantitative methodologies. In the same context, using this specific criterion can be more common in international research projects taking place in developing countries but not consistently considered in developed countries.
Other than the important issue of cultural sensitivity when conducting research in a specific community, the reaction of respondents to the individual researcher may considerably affect the quality of data received. However, using 'researcher profiling' based on the identity of the person can raise equally important ethical questions of discrimination or perpetuation of community biases.
Secondly, training of the interviewers of household surveys must be comprehensive and adapted specifically to the target community. Standard training methods and manuals exist and should be referenced, but modifications should be adopted to best fit the research site. International research teams may have a difficult time understanding the implications of various responses or attempts for clarification during data collection. Multi-disciplinary studies can require researchers who have expertise in each discipline, as well as experience with data collection. These requirements can be challenging to fulfill, thus a focus must be established in researcher selection and training. We will discuss the affects of researcher identity and team-/site-appropriate training to the collection of quality data for household surveys in international research projects, and put forth recommendations for methods to reduce the inconsistencies and challenges faced when approaching cross-cultural research.