Using smartphone sensors, apps and wearables in Social Science Research (postponed)


19/03/2020 - 20/03/2020

Organised by:

NCRM, University of Southampton


Professor Bella Struminskaya and Professor Florian Keusch


Entry (no or almost no prior knowledge)


Jacqui Thorp
Training and Capacity Building Co-ordinator
Tel: 02380 594069


View in Google Maps  (WC2A 2AE)


Old Building, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London


Smartphone sensors (e.g., GPS, camera, accelerometer), apps, and wearables (e.g., smartwatches, fitness bracelets) allow researchers to collect rich behavioral data, potentially with less measurement error and lower respondent burden than self-reports through surveys. Passive mobile data collection (e.g., location tracking, call logs, browsing history) and respondents performing additional tasks on smartphones (e.g., taking pictures, scanning receipts) can augment or replace self-reports in surveys. However, there are multiple challenges to collecting these data: participant selectivity, (non)willingness to provide sensor data or perform additional tasks, privacy concerns and ethical issues, quality and usefulness of the data, and practical issues of implementation. This course will address the challenges by reviewing state-of-the-art practices of smartphone sensor, app, and wearables data collection, ranging from small-scale studies of hard-to-reach populations to large-scale studies to produce official statistics, and discuss design best-practices for this type of measurement. Recommendations provided will include:

 •   What research questions can be answered using smartphone sensors, apps, and wearables?

 •   What are participants’ concerns and how to address them?

 •   How to ask for consent for sensor measurements and ensure participation?

 •   How to ease into sensor data analysis?

As part of this course, participants will have the chance to work on practical issues of implementing smartphone sensors, apps, and wearables into social science research. Participants will discuss their own research study designs using new technology and have the opportunity to get hands-on practice with data from health, accelerometery, and location sensors. The course will not discuss how to collect and analyse “found” data (e.g., social media data) nor demonstrate how to program smartphone sensor apps.

The course covers:

  • Contemporary uses of sensor-based data collection in the social sciences
  • Design of surveys with sensor-based data collection components
  • Overview of practical issues when implementing smartphone sensors, apps, and wearables studies and recommendations
  • Introduction to accessing and working with sensor data

By the end of the course participants will:

  • know what smartphone sensors, apps, and wearables are available and what they can measure to facilitate and enhance surveys
  • be able to identify potential applications of sensor and app measurement for their own data collection
  • be able to anticipate practical issues when implementing sensor-based data collection

Participants will perform basic analysis of sensor-collected data using software that they are most comfortable with (SPSS, R, Stata, MS Excel etc.). R syntax will be provided, which can be modified to SPSS or Stata syntax if R is not used. No prior knowledge of smartphone sensors, wearables, and apps is required, but a basic understanding of survey practice and survey errors is helpful. Basic data analysis skills are beneficial.

The course is intended for survey practitioners, researchers, and students who want a practical introduction to smartphone sensors, wearables and app-based research.

Participants should bring their smartphones and laptops and any wearables (e.g., fitness bracelets, smartwatches) if available.


The fee per teaching day is:• £30 per day for UK/EU registered students• £60 per day for staff at UK/EU academic institutions, UK/EU Research Councils researchers, UK/EU public sector staff and staff at UK/EU registered charity organisations and recognised UK/EU research institutions. • £220 per day for all other participantsAll fees include event materials and refreshments. They do not include lunch, travel and accommodation costs.Please note bookings will close one week before the course takes place.In the event of cancellation by the delegate a full refund of the course fee is available up to two weeks prior to the course. NO refunds are available after this date.If it is no longer possible to run a course due to circumstances beyond its control, NCRM reserves the right to cancel the course at its sole discretion at any time prior to the event. In this event every effort will be made to reschedule the course. If this is not possible or the new date is inconvenient a full refund of the course fee will be given. NCRM shall not be liable for any costs, losses or expenses that may be incurred as a result of the cancellation of a course, including but not limited to any travel or accommodation costs.The University of Southampton’s Online Store T&Cs also continue to apply.

Website and registration:


Greater London


Survey Research, Survey and Questionnaire Design, Data Collection (other), Measurement Error, Nonresponse , Sensors and wearables

Related publications and presentations:

Survey Research
Survey and Questionnaire Design
Data Collection (other)
Measurement Error

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