We are happy to answer any questions you may have about our study.

If your questions are not answered in our list below, you are welcome to contact us for further information.

How can I get involved in the Optimise Study?

Click on the Take the Survey button and answer a few questions about yourself. If you meet the study requirements, a researcher may contact you to provide further information and start the study. If you are not eligible for participation in this study, you will receive an email to let you know and thank you for your time and interest.

What does participation in this study involve?

To start with:

  • Responding to some questions about yourself to assess eligibility for the study (e.g. age, gender, postcode, health, languages spoken, occupation, contact details)
  • An initial phone call with one of our researchers to ensure you understand what is involved, have the opportunity to ask questions and then consent to participate.
  • An interview about your recent experiences and some questions about people who play a key role in your life (about 10 minutes)
  • A baseline survey (by phone or self-completed by you online) about you, your living, work and health circumstances, experiences of COVID-19 and the measures to prevent its spread (about 30 minutes)
  • A two-week diary (self-completed by you online) about the types of activities you are doing and people you are in contact with (about 10 minutes)

Each month:

  • A follow-up survey (by phone or online) (about 20 minutes)
  • A follow-up diary (self-completed by you online) about the types of activities you are doing and people you are in contact with in the previous 24 hours (about 10 minutes)


  • In-depth interview about your experiences of COVID-19* (about 1 hour)

* Only some participants will be required to complete this interview

What are the benefits of joining the Optimise Study?
  • By being a part of the Optimise Study, you will help inform government strategy to promote the health of the general public, and relax the current restrictions.
  • Your participation will help us generate the evidence needed to help community organisations and key health service providers to keep new infections of COVID-19 at a low level whilst economic and recreational activities are restored.
  • The information from this study will be used to inform public messaging around COVID-19, and design public health solutions to improve our national response to epidemics of novel diseases, such as COVID-19.
  • You will be reimbursed for your time in completing the project surveys and diaries according to the following schedule:
    • $50 in the first month following completion of the baseline survey;
    • $35 in subsequent months where you actively participate in completing diaries/surveys.
  • Participants who actively participate in Optimise for the whole 12 months (52 weeks) will be reimbursed at least $505. If you are invited to participate in extra activities during the course of the study, you will be reimbursed on top of the rates above. You will receive your reimbursement once a month via electronic gift card vouchers which can be used across a range of retailers.
  • To ensure that you receive your vouchers, please add the email address as a ‘safe/trusted’ address in your email account. If you don’t receive a voucher, please check your spam/junk folder and contact us if you cannot locate them.
I'm interested in the findings of the study. How can I learn more?
  • We’ll be regularly posting findings of the study here: Study Findings.
  • You can also keep up to date with news from the Burnet Institute. Subscribe here.
What equipment/technology do I need to participate?

Any device with internet access, such as:

  • Mobile phone
  • Tablet
  • Computer

If you wish, you can arrange to do the surveys by phone with a researcher. But all diaries will have to be self-completed online.

For the best experience, please use the most up to date version of Google Chrome when completing the diaries and surveys online. See here if you need help with updating Chrome.

Can I get help to complete the surveys?

Yes, there is help for you to complete the surveys. If you are not comfortable, or unable to complete the surveys yourself online, you can choose to complete the surveys by phone with one of our researchers. You can select this option at the start of the study, or you can also contact us by email or phone to arrange this option:

What if I miss a survey or diary?
  • We understand that things may come up that make it difficult to complete all of the surveys. It is ok if you occasionally skip a survey or diary entry.
  • We will automatically send you a reminder if you miss certain tools. We may also call you to remind you that a survey is due. You will be contacted a maximum of 3 times per survey.
  • Each link will remain active for 7 days, and you can complete the survey/diary during this time.
  • Even if you miss a survey and diary, we still would like you to stay in the study and complete future ones.
  • If you miss more than 4 surveys in a row, we will contact you by phone to check in to see how you are going, and to make sure that you are still happy to participate.
What information is collected?

COVID-19 is impacting almost every aspect of our lives. We are collecting a wide range of experiences and issues related to COVID-19 and the measures to prevent its spread, so we can return more quickly to some semblance of normality. You will be asked questions about a variety of different topics:

  • COVID-19 health and exposure
  • Living situation
  • Work and income
  • Study and education
  • Other responsibilities
  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Lifestyle and social engagement
  • People you have contact with and/or who play a key role in your everyday life
  • Your knowledge and acceptability of COVID-19 restrictions and measures
  • Your experiences, challenges and concerns relating to COVID-19 measures such as physical distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine
Why are you asking me about key people in my life?
  • We know that that the people around you have an important influence on your behaviour, health and wellbeing. We are interested in how people who play a key role in your life help you, influence you, and impact your chances of being exposed to COVID-19.
  • We are interested in the connections you have with close friends, family and your broader social network, and would like to invite some of the key people in your life to also participate in the study. We will only contact them if you are ok with that.
  • We have used this method to study the impact of people’s social connections on other aspects of their lives in previous research studies, such the Beyond Bushfires Study.
  • We will ask you to provide a name and contact number for key people in your life so that we can invite them to participate in the Optimise Study. These details will only be used for this purpose, and no other personal information from your study participation will be shared with anyone.
  • Each key person nominated will have the right to refuse participation. If the nominated key person refuses, then we will not contact them again. This does not affect your own participation in the study.
  • If you are worried about providing contact details for anyone in your life, please feel free to tell them that you are participating in the study, and that we may be contacting them to invite them into the study. We will give you at least a day before contacting anyone so that you can speak to them first.
  • We will only contact key people that you nominate and provide contact details for, who live in Victoria and are eligible to be in the study.
Someone I know told me that a researcher might contact me. What does this mean?
  • We are asking people in this study to nominate their friends, family and other key people in their lives to also participate. So if you have been told by someone you know that you have been nominated for this study, one of our researchers will try to contact you and offer you to be involved.
  • This recruitment approach helps us understand how a person’s social network affects the transmission of COVID-19, and also their social support which is important for their health and wellbeing.
  • We have used this method to study the impact of people’s social connections on other aspects of their lives in other research studies, such the Beyond Bushfires Study.
  • You are free to choose whether or not you would like to participate. If you decline, then we will not contact you any further.
How will information about me be stored?
  • Your personal information and survey data will be stored in a protected database on a secure server at Burnet Institute.
  • A unique identification number will be assigned to you at the start of the study, and this will help us link the information you provide over time.
  • Only core members of the study team have access to your personal data. They will only use personal data to contact you and your key people for the purposes of recruitment and follow up.
  • Optimise Study researchers will have access to your de-identified data and postcode. De-identified data means all personal information (name and email) is replaced with the unique ID assigned to you at the beginning of the study.
  • To help us map your social network over time, we need to retain and store your personal details and the links to the people you nominated and any other contacts until the end of the study. These data will be stored separately from your de-identified survey data to help protect your privacy and confidentiality.
  • At the end of the study period, we will remove all your identifiable information. Non-identifiable data will be retained for 7 years, in accordance with regulatory guidelines, and then destroyed.
Who will have access to information about me?
  • All of the information provided by you will be confidential and securely stored at Burnet Institute. Only a few individuals within the core research team will have access to this information.
  • We cannot share your information with anyone outside of the research team, including the government.
  • Any study results of the Optimise Study will be presented as a summary which prevents you from ever being identified, including in regular reports to government and other stakeholders.
  • At the end of the study period, we will remove all your identifiable information. Non-identifiable data will be retained for 7 years, in accordance with regulatory guidelines, and then destroyed.
What are the possible risks?
  • Given the nature of the study, we will be asking you both personal and sensitive information about yourself, and also about other people in your social network.
  • This means that whilst talking and answering questions about your experiences, you may feel uncomfortable and possibly distressed at times. At any stage, you are free to not answer any questions you don’t feel comfortable answering, and also to let us know if you need any support.
  • Our team of researchers are highly trained and experienced in handling sensitive conversations. They will make themselves available to address any concerns or questions you may have before and after the interviews.
  • You are free to stop answering the surveys or participating in the Optimise Study at any time, if you become upset or distressed as a result of your participation. If this happens, please notify the Optimise team as soon as possible, and they will discuss with you the option of arranging for counselling or other appropriate support if required.
  • Our team of researchers will give you advice and information about several free options for support after the interview, if necessary. We can help you choose the best support options and make contact with them.
  • We also have a Resources page where you can find more information to help you.
I’m no longer able or willing to participate, how can I withdraw?
  • Participation in this research project is 100% voluntary. If you do not wish to take part, you do not have to.
  • If you decide to take part and later change your mind, you are free to withdraw from the project at a later stage.
  • If you decide to withdraw, please notify a member of the Optimise team as soon as possible at [email protected]
  • If you withdraw, you will not be contacted for any further participation, but as your survey data is de-identified, we will not able to remove all the data that you have previously provided.
  • This process is approved by our ethics committee (Human Research Ethics Committee of the Alfred Hospital) who has reviewed and approved this study.
I’m unable to complete surveys next month. What should I do?

We understand that things may come up that could make it difficult to complete all of the surveys. It is ok if you occasionally skip a survey or diary entry. If you are too sick, going to be away, or otherwise know that you will be unable to participate for a short period, do contact us by emailing [email protected] to discuss your options.

What if I have any concerns about the project?

This research project has been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of The Alfred Hospital. If you have any complaints about any aspect of the project, the way it is being conducted or any questions about being a research participant in general, then you may contact:

Complaints Officer, Office of Ethics & Research Governance, Alfred Health
Telephone: 03 9076 3619
Email: [email protected]

All complaints will be treated confidentially. Please quote the following project number: 333/20.