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A visitor's view

We all think ISER is a fantastic place to come as a visiting researcher, but that’s easy for us to say. Chris Bollinger from the University of Kentucky spent a six month sabbatical with us thanks to a Leverhulme Trust grant. Here he tells us what he thinks about his time here.

As an economist who has long been interested in data quality issues such as measurement error and non-response, ISER has been a wonderful place to spend a sabbatical. This is one of the few places in the world where “inter-disciplinary” is really working. It is so difficult, in my experience, to draw together such varied fields as Economics, Epidemiology, Public Health, Sociology, Survey Methodology and Statistics. The faculty at ISER represent all of these fields and work together, both formally and informally, to collect, analyze and understand data. The full potential of an interdisciplinary approach is realized here.

This is also a vibrant research atmosphere. There is a wonderful balance of both young researchers who bring enthusiasm and new tools, with more experienced researchers who bring perspective and a broad knowledge base. Two regular seminar series provide many opportunities for disciplines to interact and learn from each other. For me personally, the interdisciplinary environment meant that I could discuss questionnaire wording and respondent interpretation with an expert in that field and then turn around and consider statistical modelling of the same issues with a statistics expert.

I started two co-authored projects while here. One project examines the impact of measurement error on estimates of duration models. Using a match between the British Household Panel Survey and administrative records allows us to better understand the underlying response structure. Working with a survey methodologist, Annette Jäckle, who has been considering dynamic response has significantly added to my understanding of how respondents answer surveys, something that is crucial to modelling measurement error.

Another project examines poverty measurement using subjective survey responses. My co-author on this project, Cheti Nicoletti, brings significant expertise in modelling individual response bias. The problem here is not measurement error, per se, but rather different interpretations of the meaning of survey questions. The project was motivated, in part, by research being done here using vignettes to anchor different types of subjective response. Cheti recognized that we could use a panel as a reference vignette, and we soon realized that this was a powerful tool to measure poverty.

I am grateful to the Leverhulme Trust for their generous support of my work here. I am also grateful to Cheti Nicoletti and the staff for helping arrange my sabbatical. I am also thankful to all the wonderful people here who have welcomed me.

Find out more about our Visitor programme and visiting fellowships here