Skip to content Skip to navigation

The Future of Survey Research

A pair of conferences at the National Science Foundation



The Institute for Research in the Social Sciences (IRiSS) at Stanford received and administered a grant from the National Science Foundation to organize a pair of conferences on the “Future of Survey Research”. These conferences were directed by Jon Krosnick and coordinated by David Vannette.

Sharing the findings

This website provides a platform for the dissemination of presentations and discussions that occurred at two conferences held at NSF to address the most important opportunities and challenges facing survey research. Participants were brought to Washington for two days of presentations and discussion per conference. This website documents the presentations made via transcripts of the recorded audio and the visual displays employed during the conferences. The effort of organizing these conferences was led by the members of the Subcommittee on Survey Research that is part of the Advisory Committee of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences at the National Science Foundation.

First Conference: Challenges for survey researchers

The first conference focused on operational challenges for survey researchers. The conference began with a new review of accumulated evidence about the widespread use of survey data and about the accuracy of those data. This evidence set the tone for the conferences by making it clear that the method is both popular and reliable when implemented according to best practices. The conference then turned to elucidating the many challenges facing survey researchers seeking to do so.

Second Conference: Opportunities to augment survey data

The second conference focused on opportunities to augment survey data with an emphasis on data linking and data dissemination. The purpose here was to first identify opportunities for collecting and linking other forms of data to survey data. Presentations described past experiences with such linking that have been fruitful and some of the challenges such endeavors have faced. Presentations also focused on how linkable data can be obtained, the challenges inherent in the process of linking survey data to non-survey data, and the limits of the value of data linkage. In addition, the conference devoted time to investigating best practices in data dissemination and data collection procedure documentation by reviewing the practices of major data collection and dissemination organizations and the challenges they face. Especially in light of recent developments in the social sciences moving toward increased transparency of data collection and analysis and concerns about integrity, it is especially useful to outline the approaches that are most desirable for large-scale infrastructure surveys to implement.

Results of the Conference

Outlining the opportunities and challenges facing survey research entails illuminating current knowledge about how best to maximize opportunities, cope with challenges, and maintain data quality while incurring affordable costs. The net result of these conferences are: (1) a set of insights about how surveys should be done today to maximize data quality (thereby specifying how major infrastructure surveys should be designed and carried out), (2) a list of the most important challenges facing the methodology, (3) a list of opportunities for augmenting survey data, and (4) a list of research questions that merit future investigation, perhaps with NSF grant support.

Conference Programs

October Conference

November Conference