Examining differential success in recruitment using respondent driven sampling (RDS) in a multi-site study of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men Sang, Jordan M.; Gholamian, Bita; Wang, Lu; Barath, Justin; Noor, Syed W.; Lachowsky, Nathan J.; Hart, Trevor A.; Cox, Joseph; Lambert, Gilles; Grace, Daniel; et al.
Background: The Engage Study is a longitudinal biobehavioral cohort study of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBM) in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. Baseline data (2,449 participants) were collected from February 2017 - August 2019 using respondent-driven sampling (RDS). Recruitment in Montreal required fewer seeds, had a much shorter recruitment period, and recruited the largest sample. Methods To better understand why RDS recruitment was more successful in Montreal compared to other sites, we conducted an analysis to examine RDS recruitment characteristics for GBM in each of the three study sites, explore demographic characteristics and measures of homophily, that is, the tendency of individuals to recruit other study participants who are like themselves, and compared motivations for study participation. Results Montreal had the greatest proportion of participants over the age of 45 (29.1% in Montreal, 24.6% in Vancouver, and 21.0% in Toronto) and the highest homophily for this age group, but homophily was high across the three cities. Montreal also reported the lowest percentage of participants with an annual income greater or equal to $60,000 (7.9% in Montreal, 13.1% in Vancouver and 10.6% in Toronto), but homophily was similar across all three cities. The majority of participants indicated interest in sexual health and HIV as the main reason for participating (36.1% in Montreal, 34.7% in Vancouver, and 29.8% in Toronto). Financial interest as the main reason for participation was low (12.7% in Montreal, 10.6% in Vancouver, and 5.7% in Toronto). Conclusion Taken together, although we found some differences in study demographic characteristics and homophily scores, we were unable to fully explain the different recruitment success based on the data available. Our study underlines the fact that success of RDS implementation may vary by unknown factors, and that researchers should be proactive and flexible to account for variability.
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