We now live in a digital age with a high level use of technologies in everyday life. The way surveys are conducted is changing. Adoption of technologies including mobile devices for data collection is becoming more widespread across the world. There is a big move in the direction of online data collection in the UK. This includes the plan to collect 75% of household responses to the UK 2021 Census through online data collection.
However, evidence is needed to demonstrate that online data collection strategy will work in the UK and to understand how to make it work effectively. Unfortunately, at present little is known about online data collection in the UK and specifically about the use of mobile devices in online survey data collection. Currently available datasets have very small subsamples, often making statistical modelling difficult and the generalisation of findings impossible. In particular, the use of different devices in data collection is still unexplored and many aspects of survey research and data quality issues are not well understood.
The main aims of our ESRC Secondary Data Analysis Initiative project, “Understanding Survey Response Behaviour in a Digital Age: Mixed-device Online Surveys and Mobile Device Use”1, are to study participants’ online survey choices and behaviour as a social phenomenon and to understand data quality issues associated with this behaviour in mixed-device online surveys in the UK. This project explores differences in a range of devices used by respondents in online surveys (desktops PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones) with a special focus on mobile devices. We will be asking: Is there a difference in characteristics of people who choose to use different devices? and Is there a variation in data quality depending on device used by participants during survey completion? This project is timely in addressing the existing gap in knowledge by utilising key UK data resources, which are soon to be available social surveys in the UK with large subsamples responding through online mode including mobile devices. These data will contain large enough samples to conduct advanced statistical modelling.
Results from the study will be compared to findings from other countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and the US which have already made advances in this area. The findings from this project will be instrumental to better understand response behaviour in online surveys in the UK more generally and, specifically, in informing best practice for the next UK Census in 2021. The Office for National Statistics UK (ONS), Census Transformation Programme, Central Bureau of Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and Kantar Public (a market research company) will be directly involved as non-academic partners for the project. The ONS is responsible for the 2021 Census in England and Wales and CBS Netherlands has recently started a programme investigating online surveys. Preliminary work has already been conducted by the team using all publically available UK social surveys which have used an online mode of data collection.
The findings of the project, which starts in February 2018, will be presented at national and international conferences as well the project’s international research symposium which will bring together experts from academic and survey practice institutions. The research findings will also feed into a short course on the use of mobile devices in online surveys provided by the NCRM.
Submitted by Olga Maslovskaya on Monday, 5th June 2017