Surveys by mobile devices – New ESRC Survey Methods studentship in collaboration with TNS BMRB

We have announced a new collaborative PhD studentship funded jointly by the ESRC and TNS BMRB in survey methodology, supervised by ISER’s Professor Peter Lynn and Joel Williams (Head of Methods) at TNS BMRB, looking specifically at the use of mobile devices.

Candidates are invited to apply by 14 February to join the October 2014 intake.

This studentship will provide an opportunity for a talented student to take advantage of the context of Understanding Society to explore methodological issues surrounding the use of mobile devices for self-completion in the context of a complex, longitudinal household survey. Understanding Society is a sophisticated, complex survey which is committed to mixed-mode data collection. A programme of ground-breaking experimentation into combining PC-based web data collection with face-to-face interviewing has already been carried out, using the study’s unique methodological research vehicle, the Innovation Panel.

Both the study’s Scientific Leadership Team, based at ISER, and the data collection partners, TNS BMRB, are keen to develop a capacity to enable survey response via mobile devices. But this must be done in a way which does not jeopardise key aspects of survey quality. Specifically, this means that measurement should be equivalent to other modes and that the experience of attempting to respond using a mobile device should not have a negative impact on the likelihood of sample members continuing to participate in the survey.

It is therefore specifically envisaged that the student’s research will address one or more of the following areas:

  • Instrument design for mobile devices and measurement error;
  • The implications of long/complex questions or response options on mobile devices;
  • The effect of offering mobile participation on response rates and attrition, and how these may differ between sample subgroups;
  • Other technical, logistical or statistical considerations for mobile response in the context of a large-scale mixed-mode longitudinal household survey.

The student is expected to make an important contribution to the development of this emerging field. Survey researchers around the world will be interested in the research.

The student will benefit both from the unique research environment at ISER and the expertise and practical context of TNS BMRB. ISER is the only academic institution in the UK offering a high concentration of specialised research and teaching in survey data collection methods, while TNS BMRB is one of the UK’s leading social survey research institutes, with vast experience of carrying out large, complex surveys for government, universities and other public sector bodies. TNS BMRB also has access to a large commercial online panel as well as a panel specifically built for mobile device data collection. Both could potentially be used by the student as a test-bed. TNS BMRB sits within a large international network of market and social research companies and benefits from global development work in this area. TNS BMRB can therefore bring experience in the design of mobile surveys to the project. The student will spend the majority of term-time at ISER, to take maximum advantage of courses, seminars and other relevant learning opportunities, but will spend the equivalent of at least 8 weeks a year based at the TNS BMRB offices in London. How the time will be apportioned will be agreed between the student and supervisors, depending on the nature of the developing research and other considerations. The need for frequent travel between Colchester and London should be assumed.

This studentship will be based in the accredited Essex Doctoral Training Centre pathway “Survey Methodology”. The studentship would be for three years, beginning in October 2014. It is a collaborative studentship jointly funded by TNS BMRB and an ESRC studentship awarded through the University of Essex Doctoral Training Centre.

Download the full description of the collaborative PhD


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