Call for JRSSA issue on online data collection in social surveys

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Themed Issue: Journal of the Royal Statistical Society - Series A (Statistics in Society)

Title: The Future of Online Data Collection in Social Surveys: Challenges, Developments and Applications

We live in a digital age with widespread use of technologies in everyday life. Technologies change very rapidly and affect all aspects of life, including surveys and their designs and implementation. Data collection organisations in many countries are undergoing a paradigm shift in data collection and, therefore, social surveys, including censuses, are experiencing major transformations. Globally, there is a big move in the direction of online data collection. In the UK 2021 Census, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) plans to collect 75% of household responses online. Some UK social surveys have either already moved to mixed-mode data collection as a cost saving initiative, such as the Understanding Society survey, or are in the process of testing for the upcoming transformation to 'online first' design, such as the Labour Force Survey (LFS). Online data collection offers many opportunities but it also brings new challenges in design and implementation of social surveys. Recent developments following the Coronavirus pandemic will expedite the processes to move surveys online in unprecedented ways.

Transitions to online data collection have an impact on various aspects of social surveys, for both cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys. These areas include coverage issues, sampling frames, recruitment approaches including access to off-line populations, data quality, and measurement issues, issues associated with bio-measures and cognitive assessment as well as data linkage. Also, issues associated with questionnaire design, optimisation of surveys, and adaptation of question designs for screens of different sizes, the use of different devices for survey completion, adjustment approaches with a particular focus on accounting and adjusting for measurement differences due to device and mode effects are of interest among other topics.

There is an urgent need for evidence on how to utilise all the opportunities technological change offers and how to ensure that online data collection is effective and efficient, and results in high quality data, which can be confidently used for important policy and financial decisions.   

This themed issue of the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A, is dedicated to finding solutions to these challenges, through innovative methodological developments and applications, bringing together survey methodology, survey research, statistics and other disciplines.

As usual with Series A, the focus is on the development and/or evaluation of innovative methodology that is directly motivated by, and substantially increases our understanding of, real world data problems in social, medical and other settings.

We particularly encourage submissions that involve collaborations between survey methodologists, statisticians and other scientists as well as with researchers from different sectors including academia, national statistics and independent research agencies.

Prospective authors are invited to email any questions about their proposed papers to the guest editors Dr Olga Maslovskaya (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), Dr Bella Struminskaya (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and Professor Gabriele Durrant (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Please note that, in line with the remit of Series A, contributions of a principally technical nature will not be acceptable. The deadline for manuscript submissions is at 23:59 on 30 September 2020.

Submissions — which should clearly indicate JRSS-Online Data Collection Special Issue in the cover letter — should be made in the usual way, online at, where further guidance about the structure, length and format of manuscripts may be found. All manuscripts will be peer reviewed in line with the journal’s standard policy. However, in order to produce the special issue in a timely manner, authors will be asked to complete revisions within eight weeks of receiving referee reports.

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