Proud to be a member of survey research #MRX


Guest Post by Prof. Dr. Peter Ph. Mohler 

Having listened to uncountable papers and reading innumerable texts on non-response, non-response bias, survey error, even total survey error, or global cooling of the survey climate it seems to be timely considering why after so many decades working in a, according to the papers, seemingly declining field called “survey research” I still do not intend to quit that field.

The truth is, I am mighty proud to be a member of survey research because:

  • We can be proud of our respondents who, after all these years, still give us an hour or so of their precious time to answer our questions to the best of their abilities.
  • We can be proud of our interviewers who, despite low esteem/status and payment, under often quite difficult circumstance, get in contact with our respondents, convince them to give us some of their time and finally do an interview to the best of their abilities.
  • We can be proud of our survey operations crews, who, despite low esteem/status and increasing costs/time pressures organize data collection, motivate interviewers, and edit/finalize data for analysis.
  • We can be proud of our social science data archives who for more than five decades preserve and publish surveys nationally and internationally as a free, high quality service unknown of in other strands of science.
  • We can be proud of our survey designers, statisticians and PIs, who constantly improved survey quality from its early beginnings.

Of course there are drawbacks such as clients insisting on asking dried and dusted questions or, often academic, PIs who do not estimate the efforts and successes of respondents, interviewers, survey operations  and all the rest, and there are some who deliberately fabricate surveys or survey analyses (including all groups mentioned before).

But it is no good to define a profession by its outliers or not so optimal outcomes.

Thus it seems timely to turn our attention from searching for errors to optimizing survey process quality and at long last defining benchmarks for good surveys that are fit for their intended purpose.

The concepts and tools are already there, waiting to be used  to our benefit.

 As originally posted to the AAPOR distribution list. 

Peter is owner and Chief Consultant of Comparative Survey Services (COMPASS) and honorary professor at Mannheim University. He is the former Director of ZUMA, Mannheim (1987-2008). Among others he directed the German General Social Survey (ALLBUS) and  the German part of the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) for more than 20 years. He was  a founding senior member of the European Social Survey (ESS) Central Scientific Team 2001- 2008.  He is co-editor of Cross-Cultural Survey Methods (John Wiley, 2003) and Surveys in Multinational, Multiregional and Contexts (John Wiley, 2010, AAPOR Book Award 2013). Together with colleagues of the ESS Central Coordinating Team, he received the European Descartes Prize in 2005. 

 

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2 responses

  1. Actually, I just started participating in national survey research where I scan all these codes. It’s kind of task intensive but I do get to see where I am making a difference in consumer purchasing. Great blog here, keep up the good work!

  2. I would include that new data sources are calibrated against survey data. It’s “an honorable profession, warts and all.”

    However, I am more proud of being an objective, social researcher. This means sometimes there is a better way under our world outside of survey methods.

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