Development of surveys for deployment on the Internet (presented by Roger Tourangeau), thus removing a human interviewer from the process and requiring higher standards for human interface and usability;
Incorporation of geographic information systems and global positioning satellite technology in the survey process (presented by Sarah Nusser), opening exciting new prospects for the development of survey frames and easing field interviewers’ basic navigation and task work; and
Migration of surveys from laptop computers to portable handheld computers (presented by Jay Levinsohn and Martin Meyer), literally lightening the burden of field interviewers while presenting new challenges in terms of reduced on-screen space and more limited battery capacity and storage space.
Coverage of these and other topics in general survey automation—among them the use of wireless networks and synchronization with the case management systems used to track completed questionnaires and assign follow-up interviews—was necessarily limited in this single workshop, and each topic merits fuller study.
Realizing the benefits of these and other new technologies will be difficult without increased attention to standards and practices in the survey industry or drawing on the expertise of fields outside of survey research. For example, one particular segment of contemporary survey work that suggests great potential challenges is the development of mixed-mode surveys. To boost response rates and improve survey coverage, survey designers increasingly consider conducting the same survey using multiple response modes (e.g., offering respondents the chance to reply either by mail or the Internet or conducting a mail survey but following up with nonrespondents via telephone). Thus, the inherent difficulties of implementing a survey in any particular medium are compounded by the problem of managing parallel versions of the same survey using different media. Assigning total responsibility for developing a survey in each response mode to different groups of workers seems an inefficient and possibly error-prone way to proceed, particularly if each group develops its own unique standards and processes to best suit their given response mode. Hence, in addition to reaching internal agreement on survey specifications and item types, incorporating a product line architecture (identifying and emphasizing common elements, such as data movement and processing routines) seems to be a vital step in making mixed-mode surveys work most effectively; so too is carefully