Dynamic Research, Inc- Torrance , CA
Conducting traditional research with participants amidst a rapidly rising pandemic presents challenges in safety for not only participants, but also for those involved in conducting the study. After months of preparation, Dynamic Research Inc. (DRI) researchers were able to put a plan into place early in the pandemic and have been able to continue research without a single case of COVID-19.
Everyone involved in any aspect of the DRI driving research program, starting with all employees within the company, needed to be informed of the new protocols and had to agree to follow them while on the premises. Signs throughout the building and at main entrances clearly define the rules of entering and moving around the building during a pandemic. Potential participants also needed to know what DRI was doing to keep everyone safe during such an uncertain time. An email to all past participants went out to communicate the new rules and what was expected when visiting DRI.
Upon entering, all visitors and DRI employees stop at sanitizing stations to complete a wellness check that includes temperature and health screenings, as well as making sure appropriate masks are worn. Visitors were required to have DRI staff administer the wellness check. All high-touch areas are disinfected regularly and between subject runs. Additional sanitizing stations are available throughout the building for everyone to use. Social distancing is observed at all times and when social distancing is not possible, partitions are installed and the number of persons is limited in the area. Areas with limited access or off-limits are clearly marked and disinfected areas are indicated with appropriate signage.
Minimizing contact includes limiting the time participants are in the building. Therefore, the research team implemented an all-digital system where pre-research paperwork could be completed from home and reviewed before the participant’s arrival. Research paperwork, questionnaires, and data are also collected digitally to minimize touchpoints and to make the data collection process more efficient. Compensation to each participant is electronically distributed once their participation is complete. Questionnaires are sent after each session to gather important post-study feedback from all participants. The acquired feedback helps DRI refine the protocols to ensure that participants felt safe during their visit.
While these precautions facilitate the completion of several research projects without a single case of COVID there are still some struggles throughout. With the number of pandemic cases rising high at times, some potential participants never felt completely comfortable and canceled at the last minute. Conversely, some participants needed to be reminded of the rules (e.g. proper mask-wearing at all times), but none had to be dismissed. Overall, planning and communication are the most important aspects of being able to continue to perform driving research during a pandemic. DRI’s experience has been that with protocols in place and clear communication of those protocols to everyone involved, successful research projects can be completed even in the most challenging times.