The Health Survey Research Methods conference series has two primary goals:
- The long-range goal is to improve the quality of health survey data that are collected and to enhance their value and use by decision makers responsible for shaping health practices, policies, and programs.
- The immediate goal is to provide a forum in which methodologists can discuss the state-of-the-art in data collection, identify major problems and needs, and define issues, hypotheses, and priorities to guide future research.
This series of conferences began in 1975 when a group of researchers representing academic institutions and government research agencies met informally to discuss what was known about health survey research methods. Sponsored by the National Center for Health Services Research and the National Center for Health Statistics, a group of about 40 invited researchers active in methodological studies came together to discuss the current state of the art of health survey research and to identify areas and issues for continuing research. The format of this first conference employed a semi-structured program centered around four major topics that included a number of salient issues under each topic. A planning committee member served as the chair for one topic on the agenda with each chair inviting a specific individual to serve as the rapporteur, or recorder for his session. Each of the major topics was given approximately one-half day for open and free discussion. No formal papers were presented. The proceedings of those discussions were published as a resource for health services researchers.
Those who participated in this first conference and readers of the resulting report recognized the value of the conference as making an important contribution to health survey methodology. Nine similar conferences followed with the 11th conference planned for March 2020. All conferences in this series have shared features that are collectively distinctive. A planning committee of government and academic researchers develop conference topics and seeks prominent investigators to lead and stimulate discussions. Conferences employ both prepared papers and presentations but allow ample time for discussion. Participation is by invitation only to a limited number of participants. Invited presentations are presented in plenary sessions and rapporteurs develop summaries of floor discussion to accompany formal papers. Conference findings are disseminated through published proceedings.
Themes across the conferences represent timely and enduring research problems faced by those conducting health surveys. For example, the first conference addressed questionnaire design, interviewers and interviewing techniques, validity of survey data and total survey design. Subsequent conferences addressed the full range of survey methodological challenges, examining such topics as nonresponse, respondent burden, standardized measurement, ethics, sample design and estimation, cross-cultural considerations, modes of data collection, and state and local data needs from surveys.
While there have been important changes in major health policy issues, the essential survey conditions faced by health survey methodologists have evolved as the population has become increasingly diverse. Yet the methodological challenges continue to revolve around a common set of enduring themes.
Each conference provides an opportunity to select the most important methodological problems of the day and anticipate future health policy and survey methodology developments.
All conferences in the Health Survey Research Methods conference series are planned and implemented by a steering committee, composed of representatives from academic and research communities and federal agencies that support the conference. Planning for the 11th HSRM conference began in 2018 with the formation of the current steering committee, almost half of whom have served on one or more previous committees. The 2020 conference would not have been possible without the contributions of the individual members: