NCRM Network for Methodological Innovation in Web Surveys for the General Population

About the project

Cultural and technological change has made it possible – and even desirable – to collect data for complex social surveys via the web. But when also faced with the rising costs and increasingly limited funding for social research, the need to explore both the web’s potential and its hazards becomes ever more urgent.

While the use of web surveys is growing rapidly in all sectors, there is still no consensus about how to best to overcome the shortcomings – mainly in maintaining population representativeness and preserving data quality.

The Network for Methodological Innovation in Web Surveys for the General Population aimed to address these issues. Drawing on national and international experts in academia, government, and the private and not-for-profit sectors, the network shared existing knowledge and stimulate discussions about future possibilities in web survey methodology.

The network’s ultimate goal was to determine where we are now with web survey methods, where we could be, and set out a road map of how to get there. Over the course of the next year, the network hosted two conferences, ran twitter chats, and published synthesis papers and blogs to collect knowledge and share it more widely.

This project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. The network was launched in October 2012 and was funded until August 2013.

Key research questions:

Sampling and coverage: How can we design web surveys so that they are sufficiently representative? What opportunities are available, and what do we need to learn in order to take them up?

Participation and engagement: What do we need to do in order to get a high, unbiased response rate and good quality data from web surveys? In particular, how do we engage with sub-groups such as younger and older people, those with less access to technology, and those from disadvantaged and ethnic minority backgrounds?

Measurement challenges: How can we best capture complex data using the web? What new opportunities are there for us to capture new kinds of data?

Partner organisations:

This network is being run by Institute of Education (IOE), NatCen, Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER), Université de Lausanne (UNIL) and the National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM).

CLS contact:

Lisa Calderwood,

Senior Survey Manager

Lisa leads the teams responsible for survey management and cohort maintenance on the 1958, 1970 and millennium cohort studies. An expert in all aspects of survey design, Lisa’s research interests are in survey methodology, particularly in relation to longitudinal survey design and implementation. Email Lisa.

Other organising members:

Peter Lynn, University of Essex

Gerry Nicolaas, NatCen Social Research

Caroline Roberts, University of Lausanne