Comparison of Survey Modality and Response Rate in Dermatologists’ Perceptions and Opinions of Sunscreens

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Alex M Glazer
Aaron S Farberg
Ryan M Svoboda
Darrell S Rigel


survey research, dermatology, sunscreen, photoprotection


Background. Survey instruments are valuable tools for research and provide insight into real-world practice and areas of knowledge deficits in ways that traditional observational studies and randomized trials cannot. Despite some experts espousing survey response rates ≥60% as valid, there is no consensus as to what an adequate response rate is for a scientific survey. Furthermore, little is known what effect the interaction of survey administration modality and response rate has on results.


Objective. To compare the results of differing survey modalities (which typically feature different response rate ranges).


Methods. A validated, 21-item survey assessing perceptions of, recommendations regarding, and usage of sunscreen was distributed to three samples of dermatologists using three different modalities: pen/paper via mail, online via email, and in real-time via an audience response system at a national conference.


Results. Response rates varied widely by survey modality (30% mail, 9% email 95% live). However, dermatologists’ responses to individual survey questions were largely consistent across modalities, with a statistically significant difference seen for only three questions (recommending sunscreens based on cosmetic elegance, recommending sunscreens based on photostability, and recommending vitamin D supplementation as a means to avoid sun exposure.


Conclusions. In this study evaluating dermatologists’ perceptions of, recommendations for, and personal use of sunscreen, survey results were largely consistent across three different modalities (mail, email, live) despite widely variable response rates, from 9% to 95%. These results suggest that when a scientific survey sample is representative of the target population, minimum response rate and survey modality appear to have negligible impact on results.


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