The target customers for our project are the people of Sierra Leone. In our project we make a variety of assumptions about our target customers, some of which are obvious and some of which are not as obvious. 10 of the less obvious assumptions are as follows. The first assumption is that the people of Sierra Leone are going to be willing to talk to us as Americans. We are hoping that they will be open, but quite frankly, it is very possible that they will not be. Second, we are assuming that any data collected will be honest and individuals will be truthful about their behaviors, when similarly to our first assumption, it is very possible that this will not be the case. A third assumption we are making is that we can communicate effectively with the individuals we plan to administer the survey to, even with the translator. A fourth thing we are assuming is that the individuals we survey are aware of the measurable quantities we are trying to collect. Even if these individuals would like to help us, it is entirely possible that they will be unaware of some critical data points to identify a correlation. The fifth thing we are assuming is that there is a measurable correlation between an individual’s measurable socioeconomic qualities and behaviors that put them at risk of contracting Ebola Virus. The sixth thing we are assuming is that any correlation identified on the micro level can be scaled up to the macro level and still remain accurate. A seventh thing we are assuming is that collecting data from some small villages and some large villages will provide the variety necessary to identify the correlation. An eighth assumption we are making is that surveying just a handful of villages will provide enough data as well. A ninth assumption is that policy makers and health officials will be on our side supporting us during our time in Sierra Leone. Lastly, a tenth assumption we make is that there is a possibility of continuing the data collection process after the conclusion of our fieldwork. There are also a variety of hypotheses about our project that we need to test during our field work. We will test whether or not individuals are willing to talk with us openly, inherent checks within our survey will ensure honestly, we will figure out if individuals are aware of the information we are looking for, and we will see if communication is effective naturally as we proceed with the survey process in Sierra Leone. Hypotheses about correlation can possibly be identified by us as we administer the survey; however, it is more likely that those hypotheses will be proven or disproven in the fall semester. We also hypothesize that the Statistics Sierra Leone organization may be able to help us with survey distribution and collection, and also possibly health officials or policy makers, which may or may not be the case.
On my team, I believe I provide the perspective of a student but also someone with more research experience than my other teammates simply because I am older. I also believe I provide a more analytical perspective as my side of the project is more computational. I also bring to the team someone who is pursuing a business education, not only an engineering education, as opposed to my 2 teammates who are first year engineering students. Our faculty advisors are also both engineering focused individuals. As someone who is also a finance major, I have experiences and perspectives that are unique to my team. My perception of my own strengths and weaknesses hasn’t changed really throughout the semester. There are definitely things I could work on such as fidgeting during presentations. Overall I believe everyone on my team is an asset and provides skills that are helping us complete our project.
In order to identify risky human behavior, it is necessary that we conduct a survey in Sierra Leone and gather more information. For us to complete our fieldwork in Sierra Leone, it is necessary that we get approval from the IRB, or Institutional Review Board, as we are involving human subjects in our research through the survey. Of the three levels IRB approval, this project falls under the expedited category. We would not have exempt status as we will be collecting identifiable information from the subjects. However, as we are just asking questions and there is minimal risk involved, so a full committee approval would not be necessary. Therefore we are expecting this process, once submitted, to take 1-3 weeks. We are not sure if we would like to survey adults or children. While children under the age of 18 are considered a vulnerable group to the IRB, it is still possible to use them as subjects so long as we disclose that we plan to in our proposal. We are looking to submit for approval in early April. It is also necessary that we provide informed consent for all subjects involved in the research. Luckily, Lehigh’s IRB has documents online that include the necessary legal aspects of informed consent. As we are trying to make the survey as short as possible (no more than one page), it is now an interesting aspect of our project to figure out the most efficient way to include the informed consent as part of the survey. In order to obtain the most honest answers we can, the survey is going to be anonymous. This makes things a bit more difficult when considering informed consent, which must be signed.
One way our project might be completed more efficiently is using a logic model. There are a variety of inputs necessary for our project. It is necessary that the team input a lot of time into this project. It takes time to run simulations, specifically craft survey questions, and determine the appropriate framework for survey distribution and collection. Every team member must put in enough time for this project to be successful. Another input this project requires is a knowledge base. Luckily, our professors Dr. Buceta and Dr. Bocchini have expertise in this area, as they have been studying the disease propagation and have modeled the spread of Ebola in bats successfully. Depending on the exact survey method used, different materials will be required. We are leaning towards paper surveys, which could require obtaining upwards of 1000 sheets of paper either in Sierra Leone, or travelling there with it. Regardless, the materials necessary to administer the survey are required inputs for this project. This project also has the input of partners, including the Creative Inquiry/Mountaintop Program, World Hope International, and the National Institutes of Health, which has been very helpful and supportive.
With all of the inputs, we are looking to develop a survey that can be used to correlate different measurable factors to how at risk a human is of contracting ebola virus. We are looking to deliver and distribute the survey to 4 villages (2 larger, 2 smaller) during our fieldwork in Sierra Leone. We are also considering partnering with someone in Sierra Leone that can continue distribution of the survey for about 1 year. If we can acquire data that can be used effectively, even just during the 3 weeks of our fieldwork, we are excited for the outcomes. One outcome would hopefully be general awareness of how to stop Ebola from spreading, and what easy preventative measures an individual can take. The output we are truly looking for is to be able to predict the likelihood of transmission of the ebola virus from a bat to a human. While it is not possible to provide additional doctors and resources to the entire continent of Africa, if the time and space could be predicted there could be an increase of doctors or medical supplies in that area specifically. This, along with shaping preventative policies, are the desired outcomes of our project.