A new resource for social science: exploratory study

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded a new exploratory study looking at the research opportunities, design considerations and cost implications of establishing a web-based probability panel in the UK.

About the project

A web-based panel would be a major new resource for economic and social research. It would expand opportunities to collect and analyse survey data, and could facilitate innovation and experimentation both within the research community and beyond. Setting up such a panel could stimulate new research opportunities, potentially transforming the ability of UK social science to address important scientific questions, as well as allowing more research ideas to be financially viable.

Academic, government and the voluntary sector stakeholders were invited to contribute to a consultation on the research opportunities and design options for a web-based probability panel.

Online consultation survey and Final Report

Answers from the Online Consultation survey were used to inform the recommended design options for the panel. The consultation period ran from November 2014 to May 2015.

A summary of the findings will be included in the final project report. The report has been submitted to ESRC and is expected to be published in late-2015/early-2016.


Further information

The consultation was part of an exploratory study being carried out by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) at the UCL Institute of Education (UCL IOE) and TNS BMRB on behalf of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). It will inform the ESRC’s decision on whether to make the large scale investment needed to establish and maintain such a panel. The project built on the work of the GenPopWeb network.

What is a web-based probability panel?

A web-based probability panel consists of a group of individuals or households who regularly complete surveys online. Panellists are chosen to join the panel using probability sampling methods, to ensure they are statistically representative of the population of interest.

The project involved:

  • Assessing potential demand for a web-based probability panel from economic and social researchers in academia, government and voluntary sector
  • Developing and costing design options for a web-based probability panel
  • Learning from web-based probability panels in other countries
  • Consulting with a wide range of stakeholders to elaborate potential research opportunities and inform development of design options

The consultation included a face-to-face workshop, a small 'roundtable' discussion with survey experts, and one-to-one stakeholder interviews. 

CLS contact

Lisa Calderwood,

Principal Investigator, Next Steps

Lisa is the Director of Next Steps and leads the teams responsible for survey management and cohort maintenance on the 1958, 1970, millennium and Next Steps 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

Joel Williams, Head of Survey Methods, TNS BMRB

Carli Lessof, Director of Development, TNS BMRB

Partner organisations

The Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) and TNS-BMRB, with expert advisors from City University, Tilburg University and University of Southern California. The exploratory study was undertaken on behalf of the ESRC.