The Future of Survey Research: Challenges and Opportunities
A Report to the National Science Foundation Based on Two Conferences Held on October 3-4 and November 8-9, 2012
For more than thirty years, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has supported data for research on a wide variety of topics by making awards to three major long-term survey efforts, the American National Elections Studies (ANES), the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), and the General Social Survey (GSS). In February 2012, the Advisory Committee for the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) was asked to provide advice about future investments in these surveys and others. The Advisory Committee then charged a subcommittee to provide that advice. The Subcommittee on Advancing SBE Survey Research is comprised of Jon Krosnick (Stanford University, chair), Janet Harkness (University of Nebraska, deceased), Kaye Husbands-Fealing (University of Minnesota), Stanley Presser (University of Maryland), and Steven Ruggles (University of Minnesota).
The Subcommittee submits this report to the Assistant Director of the SBE Directorate, with the purpose of providing advice related to how the Foundation can best use its resources to support research through survey data collection. Specifically, the report addresses the following questions, as requested:
1. What are the challenges facing survey-based data collection today (e.g., falling participation rates, rising costs, or coverage of frames)?
2. What innovations in survey methodology have taken place or are on the horizon?
3. How should SBE think about survey data in the context of the explosion of new digital sources of data? Does the Subcommittee see opportunities for blending data or mixed source methods that integrate existing administrative, commercial, or social media data with existing surveys to answer social science questions?
4. Given current challenges faced by survey research as well as the potential opportunities presented by new approaches to survey research, what types of questions will we be able to address with surveys in the future?
5. What is an overarching strategy for data collection that the Directorate supports (including, but not limited, to the three existing surveys), which could be used to guide planning for NSF-supported data in the future? This might include shared infrastructure across surveys, but should not be limited to that approach