Both the federal funds survey and the federal support survey have been early adopters of a web-based reporting system to facilitate response. However, not all respondents use the web to report, and the current web forms do not tap the full potential of current web-based survey methods. For example, at present the focus is on filling in the blanks in the reporting instrument. Little attention has been paid to developing an online survey instrument that is user-friendly and reduces respondent burden by using skip patterns and automatically populating responses. Some possibilities for process improvement include the automatic entry of zero values to subquestions when a response to one broad question is “no.” For example, if the agency respondent reports that it does not support research in non-profit institutions, the subsequent subquestions should automatically be populated with zero values, instead of requiring the respondent to enter a zero for each item.
At the same time, SRS could consider tailoring the web survey for each agency based on prior knowledge and prior reports and with extensive collaboration with the agency. One goal could be to include only those data items that could be expected to be included in the agency submissions with relative ease and accuracy and that would be familiar to the agencies. This tailoring of the collection of data does not have to be applied to all agencies at once; SRS could begin with the larger ones.
Recommendation 3-5: The Division of Science Resources Statistics should invest in creating more user-friendly web surveys, possibly tailored to each agency, to replace current web versions of the paper surveys.