### What if something unexpected happens?

I recently finished teaching a short course on responsive survey design. We had some interesting discussions. One of the things that we emphasized was the pre-planned nature of responsive design. We contrast responsive design with ad hoc changes that a survey might make in response to unanticipated problems. The reasoning is that ad hoc changes are often done under pressure and, therefore, are likely to be less than optimal -- that is, they might be implemented too late, cost too much, or better options might not be considered. Further, it's hard to replicate the results when decisions are made this way.

Some of the students seemed uneasy about this definition. In part, I think this was because there was a sort of implication that one shouldn't make ad hoc changes. That really wasn't our message. Our point was that to be responsive design, it needs to be pre-planned. We didn't mean that if unanticipated problems arise, it would be better to do nothing. In this sense, responsive design might be a goal and not all surveys live up to that goal. I'm not too proud to admit having been in an ad hoc meeting or two.

I'll take this opportunity to mention that we have a new book out (with Barry Schouten and Andy Peytchev) on Adaptive Survey Design that looks at the question of what are adaptive and responsive survey designs.

### "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.
3. Alter the design features based on pre-identified decision rules based on the indi…

### Future of Responsive and Adaptive Design

A special issue of the Journal of Official Statistics on responsive and adaptive design recently appeared. I was an associate editor for the issue and helped draft an editorial that raised issues for future research in this area. The last chapter of our book on Adaptive Survey Design also defines a set of questions that may be of issue.

I think one of the more important areas of research is to identify targeted design strategies. This differs from current procedures that often sequence the same protocol across all cases. For example, everyone gets web, then those who haven't responded to  web get mail. The targeted approach, on the other hand, would find a subgroup amenable to web and another amenable to mail.

This is a difficult task as most design features have been explored with respect to the entire population, but we know less about subgroups. Further, we often have very little information with which to define these groups. We may not even have basic household or person chara…

### An Experimental Adaptive Contact Strategy

I'm running an experiment on contact methods in a telephone survey. I'm going to present the results of the experiment at the FCSM conference in November. Here's the basic idea.

Multi-level models are fit daily with the household being a grouping factor. The models provide household-specific estimates of the probability of contact for each of four call windows. The predictor variables in this model are the geographic context variables available for an RDD sample.

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…