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Response Files

Users with access to the COVID-19 Trends and Impact Survey (CTIS) individual response data should have received SFTP credentials for a private server where the data are stored. To connect to the server, see the server access documentation. This documentation describes the survey data available on that server.

You must sign a Data Use Agreement with Facebook and with CMU to gain access to the individual survey responses. If you have not done so, aggregate data is publicly available; see the survey overview for details.

Important updates for data users, including corrections to data or updates on data processing delays, are posted as OUTAGES.txt in the SFTP server directory where the data is hosted. Our documentation on data errors explains any issues that may affect your use or interpretation of this data.

Table of contents

  1. Available Data Files
    1. Daily Files
    2. Monthly Files
  2. Conditions Responses are Recorded
  3. Collisions
  4. Lag Policy

Available Data Files

We provide two types of data files, daily and monthly. Users who need the most up-to-date data should use the daily files, while those who want to conduct retrospective analyses using many months of data may find the monthly files more convenient.

Daily Files

Each day, we write CSV files with names following this pattern:

cvid_responses_{for}_recordedby_{recorded}.csv.gz

Dates in incremental filenames are of the form YYYY_mm_dd. for refers to the day the survey response was started, in the Pacific time zone (UTC - 7). recorded refers to the day survey data was retrieved; see the lag policy for more details. Each file is compressed with gzip, and the standard gunzip command on Linux or Mac can decompress it.

Every day, we write response files for all recent days of data, with today’s recorded date. For each for date, you need only load the most recent recorded file to obtain all survey responses; the older versions are available to track any changes in file formats or slight changes from late-arriving responses, as described in the lag policy below.

For data users who use R to load and process data, we provide a get_survey_df function to read a directory of CSV files (such as those provided on the SFTP server), select the correct files, and read them into a single data frame for use.

Monthly Files

Several days after the end of each month, we produce “rollup” files containing all survey responses from that month. These are in two forms.

First, the monthly CSV files have filenames of the form

{YYYY}-{mm}.csv.gz

and contain all valid responses for that month. These are produced from the daily files, by taking the data with the most recent recorded date for each day of the month. Because these files are large (typically over 300 MB), they are compressed with gzip; the standard gunzip command on macOS or Linux can decompress them. (macOS can also decompress these files through Finder automatically; on Windows, free programs like 7-zip can decompress gzip files.) Users doing historical analyses of the survey data should start with these files, since they provide the easiest way to get all the necessary data, without accidentally including duplicate results.

Second, we produce monthly tarballs containing the daily .csv.gz files for that month, with names in the form

{YYYY}-{mm}.tar

Similar to the monthly CSV files, they contain only the files with the most recent recorded date for each day. These archives can be unpacked using the standard tar command. The unpacked files are described in Daily Files above.

Conditions Responses are Recorded

The survey is configured to record responses under two sets of circumstances:

  1. The user taking the survey reached the end of the survey, or
  2. The user taking the survey left the survey unattended for 4 hours.

An abandoned survey as in (2) is automatically closed and recorded, and the user is not permitted to reopen it.

Responses qualify for inclusion in these files if they meet the following conditions:

  • answered “yes” to age consent
  • answered a minimum of 2 additional questions, where to “answer” a numeric open-ended question (A2, A2b, B2b, Q40, C10_1_1, C10_2_1, C10_3_1, C10_4_1, D3, D4, D5) means to provide any number (floats okay) and to “answer” a radio button question is to provide a selection
  • starting September 2021, indicated that they live in the 50 states or Washington, DC

We do not require the user to have completed the survey, or to have seen all pages of the survey.

Facebook only invites users to take the survey if they appear, based on attributes in their Facebook profiles, to reside in the 50 states or Washington, DC. Puerto Rico is sampled separately as part of the international version of the survey. Starting in September 2021, if Facebook believes a user qualifies for the survey, but the user then replies that they live in Puerto Rico or another US territory, we do not include their response in the individual response data.

Collisions

One thing we haven’t been able to fully fix is the problem of people forwarding the survey link to their friends. Due to constraints on the implementation of the survey, we are not able to determine whether a survey response tagged with a particular unique identifier was submitted by the user Facebook originally associated with that identifier, or by some other person. A small number of unique identifiers (~20/day) wind up having more than one survey response (sometimes as many as 80) associated with them.

This is a problem because survey links contain a unique identifier that is provided to Facebook to calculate the survey weights; if multiple users complete a survey, the weights will only correspond to the user who initially clicked the link on Facebook, not any other people who may have received the link.

The best way we have found to address this issue is to take the response with the earliest start time, and remove all other responses. This sometimes interacts with survey lag (see section below) to require us to swap out small numbers of survey responses from past days with a response that was started earlier, but recorded later. All updates are reflected in the Last Modified date tracked by the sftp server.

Lag Policy

We do not retrieve survey responses until they have been recorded. In a small number of cases, a survey is not recorded on the same day it was started. However, weights are only produced for identifiers with at least one recorded response by 4:00AM the following morning. This captures the vast majority of respondents. In the first 1.5 million survey responses, only 45 responses were excluded using these criteria. Among those excluded, the maximum open time observed was four days.

Once a weight has been generated for a unique identifier, CMU continues to retrieve survey responses for that identifier in case one comes in with an earlier starting time. If it does, CMU will write a new daily CSV file containing the response with the earlier starting time (and not the later response), as described above. We expect all response files to stabilize after four days.