The Research and Development Survey (RANDS), which began in 2015, is a series of cross-sectional surveys from probability-sampled commercial survey panels. RANDS has been used for methodological research at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), including the use of close-ended probe questions and split-panel experiments for evaluating question-response patterns and for developing statistical methodology to calibrate survey estimates that leverage the strength of national survey data. Survey results have been used to evaluate estimation approaches for health outcomes from recruited survey panels, including propensity score adjustment and calibration. Additionally, the targeted embedded probe questions in RANDS have expanded findings from NCHS’ Collaborating Center for Questionnaire Design and Evaluation Research cognitive interviews to a wider sample.
Four rounds of surveys have been completed, with responses collected during fall 2015, spring 2016, spring 2019, and summer 2020 (referred to as RANDS 1, RANDS 2, RANDS 3, and RANDS 4, respectively). RANDS 1, 2, and 3 collected responses via web, and RANDS 4 collected responses via web and phone. Each survey examined a sample of U.S. adults aged 18 and over, with 2,304, 2,480, 2,646, and 3,442 respondents for RANDS 1–4, respectively. The questionnaires were designed to be completed within 15 to 20 minutes and contained questions on health behaviors and conditions. RANDS 1–4 contained existing questions from the National Health Interview Survey, and RANDS 2–4 additionally contained embedded probe questions for cognitive evaluations. The specific topics included in each round of RANDS have varied. Topics such as access to health care and utilization, chronic conditions, food security, general health, health insurance, opioid use, physical activity, psychological distress, smoking, and disability have been included in the completed rounds of RANDS.
RANDS is administered by external contractors using their proprietary recruited probability panels. RANDS 1 and 2 were conducted by Gallupexternal icon using the Gallup Panel, and RANDS 3 and 4 were conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago (NORCexternal icon) using its AmeriSpeak Panel. Each round was conducted as a probability survey using recruited panels, with sampling strata assigned by demographic factors such as age group, sex, race and ethnicity, and education level. The panels and sample weighting methods differed between the two external contractors, although both contractors adjusted the data using poststratification weighting to maintain proportionality of demographic groups in the population.
In addition to the four rounds of RANDS noted previously, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, NCHS adapted RANDS to collect timely information on COVID-19. This special iteration of RANDS was named “RANDS during COVID-19” to distinguish it from previous RANDS surveys. Two rounds with a longitudinal design were conducted during summer 2020 (RANDS during COVID-19 Round 1 and RANDS during COVID-19 Round 2), and a third round from an independent sample was conducted during spring 2021 (RANDS during COVID-19 Round 3). The surveys for all three rounds were administered by NORC through web and phone using its AmeriSpeak Panel. For RANDS during COVID-19 Rounds 1 and 2, additional web responses were collected for research purposes using the Dynata opt-in commercial survey panel. Similar to RANDS 1–4, the RANDS during COVID-19 surveys were designed to be completed within 15 to 20 minutes. However, the RANDS during COVID-19 surveys featured larger sample sizes compared with RANDS 1–4. RANDS during COVID-19 Round 1 included 6,800 AmeriSpeak Panel respondents and 6,220 opt-in panel respondents, Round 2 included 5,981 AmeriSpeak Panel respondents and 5,502 opt-in panel respondents, and Round 3 included 5,458 AmeriSpeak Panel respondents. The RANDS during COVID-19 surveys were used to publicly release a set of experimental estimates on selected topics, including loss of work due to illness with COVID-19, telemedicine access and use before and during the pandemic, and reduced access to specific types of health care.