Seth Flaxman - Unrepresentative Big Surveys Significantly Overestimate US Vaccine Uptake
|Starts:||14:00 9 Mar 2022|
|Ends:||15:00 9 Mar 2022|
|What is it:||Seminar|
|Organiser:||Department of Mathematics|
|Who is it for:||University staff, External researchers, Current University students|
Seth Flaxman, senior lecturer in statistical machine learning in the statistics section of the Department of Mathematics at Imperial College London is our speaker for the Statistics seminar series.
Title: Unrepresentative Big Surveys Significantly Overestimate US Vaccine Uptake
Abstract: Surveys are a crucial tool for understanding public opinion and behaviour, and their accuracy depends on maintaining statistical representativeness of their target populations by minimizing biases from all sources. Increasing data size shrinks confidence intervals but magnifies the effect of survey bias: an instance of the Big Data Paradox. Here we demonstrate this paradox in estimates of first-dose COVID-19 vaccine uptake in US adults from 9 January to 19 May 2021 from two large surveys: Delphi–Facebook (about 250,000 responses per week) and Census Household Pulse4 (about 75,000 every two weeks). In May 2021, Delphi–Facebook overestimated uptake by 17 percentage points (14–20 percentage points with 5% benchmark imprecision) and Census Household Pulse by 14 (11–17 percentage points with 5% benchmark imprecision), compared to a retroactively updated benchmark the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published on 26 May 2021. Moreover, their large sample sizes led to miniscule margins of error on the incorrect estimates. By contrast, an Axios–Ipsos online panel with about 1,000 responses per week following survey research best practices provided reliable estimates and uncertainty quantification. We decompose observed error using a recent analytic framework to explain the inaccuracy in the three surveys. We then analyse the implications for vaccine hesitancy and willingness. We show how a survey of 250,000 respondents can produce an estimate of the population mean that is no more accurate than an estimate from a simple random sample of size 10. Our central message is that data quality matters more than data quantity, and that compensating the former with the latter is a mathematically provable losing proposition.
Bio: I am an associate professor at the University of Oxford in the Department of Computer Science and a tutorial fellow of Jesus College. My research is on scalable methods and flexible models for spatiotemporal statistics and Bayesian machine learning, applied to public policy and social science. Active application areas include public and global health and machine learning for science. I help run the "Global Reference Group on Children Affected by COVID-19." I am working with colleagues from University of Oxford, Imperial College London, and University of Copenhagen on statistical disease modelling of COVID-19. My research is currently supported by an EPSRC Fellowship, “Spatiotemporal Statistical Machine Learning (ST-SML): Theory, Methods, and Applications.”
Organisation: Imperial College London
Travel and Contact Information
Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/92947173491