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Adaptive and Responsive Design

I've raised this topic a couple of times here. Several years ago, Groves and Heeringa (2006) proposed an approach to survey data collection that they called "Responsive Design." The design was rolled out in phases with information from prior phases being used to tailor the design in later phases.

In my dissertation, I wrote about "Adaptive Survey Design." For me, the main point of using the term "adaptive" was to link to the research on adaptive treatment regimes, especially as proposed by Susan Murphy and her colleagues.

I hadn't thought much about the relationship between the two. At the time, I saw what I was doing as a subset of responsive designs.

Since then, Barry Schouten and Melania Calinescu at Statistics Netherlands have defined "adaptive static" and "adaptive dynamic" designs. Adaptive static designs tailor the protocol to information on the sampling frame. For example, determining the mode of contact for each case by its characteristics on the frame, like age. Adaptive dynamic designs tailor the design to incoming paradata. A refusal conversion protocol might be a commonly used example. Changing incentives based on paradata might be another example. The "adaptive dynamic" designs seem to come closest to the kind of designs I envisioned when writing my dissertation.

Over the summer, Mick Couper and I gave a talk on responsive designs. We included some definitional discussion. It was Mick's idea to describe these designs along a continuum. The dimension of the continuum involves how much tailoring there is. On one end, single protocol surveys apply the same protocol to every case. On the other end of the spectrum, adaptive treatment regimes provide individually-tailored protocols. Here's a graphic:

The definitions of these various terms may still be fluid. The important thing is that folks who are working on similar things be able to communicate and build upon each others results.


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  2. Thanks for the post, it's really interesting and helpful :)


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"Responsive Design" and "Adaptive Design"

My dissertation was entitled "Adaptive Survey Design to Reduce Nonresponse Bias." I had been working for several years on "responsive designs" before that. As I was preparing my dissertation, I really saw "adaptive" design as a subset of responsive design.

Since then, I've seen both terms used in different places. As both terms are relatively new, there is likely to be confusion about the meanings. I thought I might offer my understanding of the terms, for what it's worth.

The term "responsive design" was developed by Groves and Heeringa (2006). They coined the term, so I think their definition is the one that should be used. They defined "responsive design" in the following way:

1. Preidentify a set of design features that affect cost and error tradeoffs.
2. Identify indicators for these costs and errors. Monitor these during data collection.
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Let $\mathbf{X_{ij}}$ denote a $k_j \times 1$ vector of demographic variables for the $i^{th}$ person and $j^{th}$ call. The data records are calls. There may be zero, one, or multiple calls to household in each window. The outcome variable is an indicator for whether contact was achieved on the call. This contact indicator is denoted $R_{ijl}$ for the $i^{th}$ person on the $j^{th}$ call to the $l^{th}$ window. Then for each of the four call windows denoted $l$, a separate model is fit where each household is assum…