Release Date: 4/17/2015
Schulman Gazes into Research Future at NYAAPOR Conference
Is survey research as we know it becoming obsolete? Are “disruptive technologies” providing new research opportunities to be exploited and embraced?
In his keynote address to the New York Chapter of AAPOR’s “Meet the Masters” conference, Abt SRBI Founding Partner Mark Schulman warned that major transformations -- methodological, marketplace and technological – are forcing researchers to rethink some of the profession's basic premises. He also emphasized that these trends may well open new doors for those who can exploit them.
In his April 17 address, entitled “The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be,” quoting Yogi Berra, Schulman examined recent changes and developments which survey researchers need to confront, including:
drop in response rates for telephone surveys, and its implications;
near obsolescence of landline interviewing with the growth of cell phone households
recognition that self-report studies have validity problems;
emergence of new digital technologies, such as smart phones and tablets, that are redefining and expanding what we can do and how we collect data;
continuing growth of non-survey based “big data,” aided by increasing use of administrative records, predictive analytics and the ability of digital devices to capture behavior;
rise of Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites which generate trillions of bits of data and provide capabilities to retrieve feedback from tens of millions of users in a few instants of time;
growth of new competitors unconstrained by our rules of professional engagement and practice;
changing cost/benefit calculation by government and commercial clients in the face of increasing tighter research budgets;
need to revise training programs to incorporate skills needed by the next generation of survey practitioners.
Schulman focused specifically on the limitations of respondent verbal self-reports, particularly in health, transportation and diary surveys. He noted that the growth of digital devices, including smart phones, now allow researchers to capture data – even sensitive health-related data -- based on actual behavior rather than problematic and often faulty recall.
“Doctors can do an EKG using a smart phone app these days,” he noted. “The future will belong to those who can capture real behavior and measurement by harnessing technology. Technology is allowing us to re-scope and expand our conception of valid data collection.”
The NYAAPOR “Meet the Masters” conference, held at the New York Times, featured a full day of forward-thinking presentations examining best practices in mobile research, text and voice survey modes, experimental design in social media, and sampling low incidence populations.
Dr. Schulman is a Founding Partner of Abt SRBI. His work has spanned market and public policy research for government, the media, foundations, transportation agencies, major corporations, banks, and other financial institutions. He was 2002-2003 president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR).
About Abt SRBI
Abt SRBI, a leading public policy and market research organization, is a subsidiary of Abt Associates, a mission-driven, global leader in research and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Abt SRBI is headquartered in New York City, with offices in the Washington, D.C. area, Chicago, IL, Cambridge, MA, Fort Myers, FL, Durham, NC and other cities.