In 2019, there will be a number of important elections, including those involving seats in the European Parliament. Sadly, most SWOG members don’t actually get to vote in any of them.  But, you have a say in something almost as important – how we conduct surveys.

Anyone with an email account knows that we are bombarded daily with requests for our opinions; Surveys come at us from non-profits, political parties, and a variety of companies. The same is true here at SWOG. In recent years, we’ve seen an explosion in the number of email surveys being sent to our members, requesting everything from demographic data to social media preferences.

This is mostly a good thing. SWOG staff and members of course are trying to advance our work and want member input to work more efficiently. But too many surveys can create clutter and confusion. And surveys that don’t clearly state goals, or that don’t use valid methods, won’t help us run better cancer clinical trials.

To ensure survey consistency and quality, I recently asked Dr. Don Dizon, the chair of our digital engagement committee, to empower a team to create a new policy on member surveys. Don formed a digital engagement subcommittee which actually spent quite a bit of time writing and honing a formal policy. The final version, vetted by SWOG’s executive advisory committee, will be voted upon by our SWOG Board of Governors (BOG), at the spring group meeting.

Before I get into the details of the survey proposal, know this: It does not cover surveys intended to themselves conduct research. Rather, the surveys covered by the policy may be used to gauge interest, or to do a preliminary assessment of feasibility. In addition, it will not disrupt processes within the disease committees, whose work will be managed as it always has been – by the committee chairs and the appropriate executive officer. 

Under the new proposal, surveys intended to be distributed to all SWOG members, or a specific group of members, will:

- Include a title, background, aims and objectives, target audience, and expected outcome

- Include a data protection policy that will cover information collected and name a responsible party that will ensure that policy is followed

- Be distributed electronically from the SWOG operations office

- Be followed up with a final report that details survey response rates and outcomes

The policy also states that SWOG will never share member names and contact information with anyone outside of SWOG, or send surveys on behalf of commercial companies.

Final review and approval of survey requests will be made by a digital engagement subcommittee whose members will be selected by Don, the appropriate executive officer, and the SWOG staff liaison to the digital engagement committee.

Here’s what Don says about the proposed policy: “We see surveys as a member engagement opportunity, but we don’t want to abuse that privilege. With this proposal, we get three things – transparency, clear expectations, and a way to meaningfully learn from members. When we send surveys, we will be sure we will learn something as a result.”

I’ll keep you posted on other proposed policy changes (as well as the new European Commission president), and after the group meeting, I’ll report back on the BOG votes. My thanks to Don and his digital engagement team for their work on this important issue. As always, your feedback is welcome!