Sensor Reactivity Study


Access to improved drinking water, sanitation systems and clean burning stoves could benefit the billions who suffer from diarrheal disease and pneumonia, two of the leading causes of death for children under five globally. However, surveys and other common methods for assessing behavioral practices are known to have certain methodological shortcomings. Surveys often overestimate adoption rates due to reporting bias where the participant is trying to please the surveyor, or recall bias where the participant does not remember the information correctly.

Remotely reporting instrumentation may help address this weakness in measurement objectivity through interventions instrumented with sensor-based monitors that can provide more complete and impartial data in real time. However, the question remains whether the use of these devices influence the behavior that is being monitored. In other words, does the presence of the monitoring instrument cause reactivity and thus present another source of bias. The second question is whether instrumented monitoring presents an opportunity to provide feedback to the program population in ways that could encourage or reinforce the target behavior.

Project Vision and Strategy

The Sensor Reactivity Study seeks to answer the first question by undertaking a trial to characterize participant reactivity to instrumented monitoring. If they find little or no evidence of reactivity, they will use their findings to inform the design of a phase II follow-on trial evaluating the behavioral impacts of delivering tailored feedback extracted from real-time monitoring data.


The team has produced 125 water filter sensors and 100 cookstove sensors were produced and deployed in Rwanda as part of a large-scale randomized controlled trial. The RCT started in January 2015 and is operating across 150 villages in control and intervention areas of a government health intervention presently reaching 470,000 people. The sensors were deployed as part of this reactivity study in March 2015 and will run on monthly rotations.

Lead Researchers