Social survey data collection in the UK currently faces some severe challenges, but has also been presented with some new opportunities. The Covid pandemic put a temporary halt to in-person interviewing and decimated the interviewer workforce – a setback from which survey organisations are finding it difficult to recover. This came at a time when the public were already becoming more reluctant to participate in social surveys. The pandemic created demand for surveys to quickly find new ways to collect data, and it meant most survey respondents were completing surveys only online.
Recognising the challenges, the Economic and Social Research Centre (ESRC) has commissioned the Survey Data Collection Methods Collaboration (SDCMC), to be known as Survey Futures. It will carry out a three-year programme of research and capacity-building activities with the aim of ensuring that it will remain possible to carry out high quality social surveys as required by the public and academic sectors.
Professor Alison Park, Deputy Executive Chair of ESRC, said:
“Population surveys are the bedrock for a significant proportion of social science research. They provide insights into people’s experiences, attitudes, beliefs and aspirations that no other forms of data can fully capture, which is why ESRC invests many millions of pounds in these vital assets.
Many surveys involve interviews with members of the public in their homes. This was not possible during much of the pandemic, so innovations were introduced to collect data in other ways. There is a huge amount we can learn from this experience – from how to keep innovating the ways in which surveys collect data, to improving our understanding of how different data collection methods affect data quality.
ESRC is delighted to fund this new collaboration that brings together UK and international experts in survey design and practice, to explore innovations in research methods that will ensure surveys remain valuable and robust sources of evidence for researchers and policymakers over the years to come.”
Director of Survey Futures, Professor Peter Lynn from University of Essex, and Deputy Director, Dr Olga Maslovskaya from University of Southampton, said:
“This is an important opportunity for the UK survey community to unite under the common cause of mapping out the future of survey research. The challenges are considerable, but we are determined to make major advances in what social surveys are capable of delivering for researchers, for commissioners, and for the benefit of society.”
Survey Futures will be a collaboration between University of Essex, University of Southampton, National Centre for Social Research, University College London, Ipsos, Kantar Public, University of Warwick, University of Manchester, University of Ulster, London School of Economics and Political Science, City, University of London and University of Lausanne, in partnership with Office for National Statistics (ONS) and National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM).
Survey Futures will be hosting a series of open Survey Practice Forums which survey commissioners, survey methodologists, survey managers, survey designers and survey data users are encouraged to attend to discuss the issues and to exchange ideas around the future of survey data collection.
For more information on upcoming events of Survey Futures, please visit www.surveyfutures.net