Survey oversight: Steering committee, technical expertise and subcommittees

Steering Committee

The Steering committee provides high-level leadership, with representation from each of the key stakeholders who have identified a need for or will use the data from the survey. This representation helps to ensure that survey results are accepted, endorsed and used for programme improvements. These decision makers provide guidance throughout the survey process, and may be from:

  • Government ministries, agencies, and departments (ministry of health, office of statistics, and others as appropriate)
  • Academic institutions (national and international)
  • United Nations agencies (World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, World Food Programme (WFP), and others as appropriate)
  • Academic institutions (national and international)
  • Nutrition partners and stakeholders (national and international)
  • Other donors
  • Agency or organization implementing the survey

The Steering committee should meet at critical stages of the survey and as needed when challenges arise. Terms of reference for the committee should be agreed upon by all members. The usual primary functions of the committee are listed in Box 8.1.

Box 8.1. The Steering committee provides oversight and guidance on:

  • the need for a micronutrient survey and endorsement of survey objectives
  • coordination with external development partners and donors
  • managing institutional agreements, such as memorandums of understanding
  • securing necessary funding and approvals
  • securing permissions and necessary support at the national, regional, and district levels
  • approving the overall protocol, work plan and budget for the survey
  • ensuring technical expertise for the survey is available to the Management team
  • coordination between survey committees and technical working groups
  • overall survey management
  • overcoming barriers to survey implementation as needed
  • analysing and using the survey data
  • endorsing the final report
  • disseminating results
  • agreeing on recommendations and related policy decisions based on the survey findings.

Technical expertise and subcommittees

The Steering committee must ensure that the survey has the technical support necessary to advise and guide the Management team on survey planning, implementation, data analysis, reporting and dissemination decisions.

Technical expertise is often available from the senior personnel from the ministry of health, the national office of statistics (or equivalent), other ministries, United Nations agencies, NGOs (national and international), academic institutions working in nutrition and other nutrition partners with technical expertise as appropriate. The survey coordinator, the laboratory coordinator, and the database manager can advise the Steering committee on what sort of technical expertise may be needed for the survey.

The Technical experts may be needed for subcommittees, such as protocol and questionnaire development, budget and finance, logistics and supplies, laboratory, and data and analysis. Roles of these subcommittees are described in Box 8.2. The number of individual experts to involve or subcommittees to establish, and their scope of work, will vary according to the national context and complexity of the survey. The survey coordinator should work closely with and participate in all subcommittees.

Box 8.2. Survey subcommittees and their tasks

Protocol and questionnaire development

  • draft, review and finalize the survey protocol, including workplan and timeline;
  • define procedures for referring survey participants identified as having a health condition (for example, anaemia) in conjunction with the ministry of health;
  • develop the survey questionnaires, the training, field, and laboratory manuals, the training plan and the outline result tables;
  • develop listing and control forms for the fieldwork;
  • develop, pretest and pilot test the survey questionnaire and all related tools.

Budget and finance

  • develop the survey budget;
  • secure mechanisms for disbursement of funds to relevant institutions;
  • track the budget and expenditures throughout the survey process.

Logistics and supplies

  • develop a detailed survey procurement plan in coordination with the Laboratory coordinator and the budget and finance subcommittee;
  • prepare the necessary documentation for customs clearance for laboratory and field supplies;
  • identify secure storage facilities for supplies;
  • ensure that procurements are within budget and timeline constraints;
  • prepare logistical and supply requirements for the training and fieldwork and submit to the Technical committee;
  • ensure that all field logistical and supply needs are in place and timely, especially transportation and fuel;
  • monitor the distribution and stocks of all supplies.

Laboratory

  • prepare a costed list of laboratory supply and equipment needs;
  • develop a detailed laboratory work plan for cold chain, transport, and analysis of all survey samples and specimens;
  • prepare standard operating procedures for all methods;
  • conduct assessment and selection of laboratories as needed;
  • ensure laboratories are participating successfully in active external quality control systems;
  • obtain necessary approvals to ship biological specimens (if needed).

Data and analysis

  • prepare the sampling framework and select PSUs;
  • determine whether to use paper-based or electronic data entry and develop a resource list for supplies and personnel;
  • develop and test a protocol for data entry;
  • develop a database and data management system and ensure that it functions;
  • develop syntax to generate results according to the result table outlines.

Many of these tasks (for example, preparing a costed list of laboratory supplies) may be the responsibility of a single individual rather than an entire subcommittee, but the subcommittee should provide oversight and guidance on the developed tools.

All subcommittees should report to the Technical committee on all tasks, in line with the implementation plan, budget and timeline.

External survey support

In some contexts, the Steering committee may recommend securing contracts with outside experts (national or international) who have specialized skills for a specific aspect of survey planning or implementation. Such skills could include developing the survey design, calculating appropriate sample sizes, developing data entry forms for electronic data collection, and data management and analysis, including Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) programming and testing. In some cases, an external group may be contracted to advise and closely oversee the entire micronutrient survey, in partnership with the national team.