Recommendation 6-9: BLS should increase the size and capability of its research staff to be able to effectively respond to changes in the contextual landscape for conducting national surveys and maintain (or improve) the quality of survey data and estimates. Of particular importance is to facilitate ongoing development of novel survey and statistical methods, to build the capacity for newer model-assisted and model-based estimation strategies required for today’s more complex survey designs and nonsampling error problems, and to build better bridges between researchers, operations staff, and experts in other organizations that face similar problems.
Obtaining Necessary Expertise Through Others
The development of tablet-based applications requires technical expertise that is likely not available at BLS or the Census Bureau at present. Rather than take the time to develop that expertise in-house, the panel urges BLS to pursue outside expertise to speed up the development and evaluation of tablet-based applications. This will require detailed knowledge of the development environment (e.g., Android, Apple iOS) and familiarity with data collection tools such as those being envisioned for the CE. Access to design and usability expertise will also be critical for the successful development of such applications, which will likely require close collaboration with BLS subject-matter staff. But relying on in-house expertise to develop the apps would likely result in development delays and possibly suboptimal designs. If BLS decides to pursue the tablet path to redesign, developing requirements for such contract work and getting outside experts engaged as soon as possible will be critical to the success of the redesign.
Recommendation 6-10: BLS should seek to engage outside experts and organizations with experience in combining the development of tablet computer applications along with appropriate survey methods in developing such applications.
Targeted Research Needed for Successful Implementation of Design Elements
The panel views the CE redesign not as one major effort, but as an ongoing process to continually address changes in the population and in survey methods. However, it is important to set priorities for aspects of the design that need the most immediate attention to achieve basic change. The CE survey methods group at BLS has undertaken many important projects to better understand survey errors and identify design features that can help reduce these errors. The panel’s objective is to provide guidance on