Maximizing rates of consent to record linkage and additional data collection

All network activities in this fourth thematic area will focus on innovative methodological approaches for increasing rates of consent to record linkage and additional data collection activities (e.g., the collection of biomeasures), including the reduction of interviewer variability in obtained rates of consent, differential opinions towards data linkage by racial/ethnic groups, and possible confounding of non-consent to multiple data collection requests (e.g., administrative record linkage and collection of biosocial measures). Methodological innovations in this area will emphasize the reduction of respondent burden, innovative approaches for administering lengthy surveys with multiple types of data collection (e.g., survey and physical measurements), methods for emphasizing the benefits of record linkage, synthesizing prior literature on innovative approaches to obtaining consent, and explaining interviewer variance in consent rates with future training of interviewers in mind.


Beuthner, C., Keusch, F., Silber, H., Weiß, B., & Schröder, J. (2022). Consent to data linkage for different data domains – The role of question order, question wording, and incentives. SocArXiv. 10.31235/

Summary: Collecting additional data from a variety of sources can help to enrich survey data. Regardless of the source, consent must be provided in order to collect this additional information. When comparing administrative data, smartphone usage data, bank data, biomarkers, Facebook data, health insurance data, and sensor data, survey respondents were most likely to consent to sharing their Facebook, smartphone usage, and biomarkers, whereas they are more reluctant to share bank data.

Keusch, F., Leonard, M.M., Sajons, C., & Steiner, S. (2021). Using smartphone technology for research on refugees – Evidence from Germany. Sociological Methods & Research, 50, 1863-1894. 10.1177/0049124119852377

Summary: Surveying transient and other hard-to-reach populations can be especially difficult. In an effort to increase data collection in a group of refugees, a mobile app was offered after an interview in an attempt to collect additional passive data. Unfortunately, many refugees did not install the app, and low literacy rates are highly correlated with app nonparticipation. On the contrary, introducing an incentive was shown to significantly increase participation in the passive data collection efforts. 

Keusch, F., Struminskaya, B., Antoun, C., Couper, M.P., & Kreuter, F. (2019). Willingness to participate in passive mobile data collection. Public Opinion Quarterly, 83, 210-235. 10.1093/poq/nfz007

Summary: The increase in smartphone usage and improvement in related technologies provides researchers with a unique opportunity to collect data from users through passive data collection with smartphone applications. Participant’s willingness to participate in passive mobile data collection is often contingent upon the following: the incentive promised for study participation, sponsor of the research, length of data collection period, option to opt out at any time, and ensuring participants privacy will be maintained.

Mneimneh, Z. (2022). Evaluation of consent to link Twitter data to survey data. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society), 185(S2). doi:10.1111/rssa.12949

Summary: Data from social media platforms such as Twitter can be very useful when it is linked to survey data, as it provides a vast amount of information on the thoughts and opinions on various topics of those who utilize these platforms, and do so in almost real-time. Due to privacy requirements, additional consent from respondents is needed in order to link their Twitter data with survey data. This study found that consent rates are higher if the request is placed at the beginning rather than the end of the interview or survey. Additionally, there are many additional individual-level factors that impact consent to data linkage.

Silber, H., Breuer, J., Beuthner, C., Gummer, T., Keusch, F., Siegers, P., Stier, S., & Weiß, B. (2021). Linking surveys and digital trace data: Insights from two studies on determinants of data sharing behavior. SocArXiv. 10.31235/

Summary: Combining survey and digital trace data from sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, and smartphone health applications can enhance the richness and quality of the overall data. Using incentives is shown to increase the likelihood of a participant agreeing to share digital trace data.

Silber, H., Gerdon, F., Bach, R., Kern, C., Keusch, F., & Kreuter, F. (2022). A preregistered vignette experiment on determinants of health data sharing behavior: Willingness to donate sensor data, medical records, and biomarkers. Politics and the Life Sciences. Published online before print September 15, 2022. 10.1017/pls.2022.15

Summary: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of high-quality health research and data for use in political decision-making surrounding population health issues. Therefore, it is important to understand factors such as social trust, privacy concerns, technical affinity, altruism, age, and device ownership, as they either encourage or deter people from sharing their health data.