In social sciences empirical analysis heavily relies on survey data that are mostly collected by well-established tools, such as household surveys, political opinion surveys, or social value surveys. Technological advancement will provide new opportunities as well as challenges for data collection, though. The advent of tablet computers and smart phones (which we will label as mobile devices) and the rapid expansion of ubiquitous WiFi availability makes people being permanently connected anytime and anywhere.
In the past ten years, a number of traditional surveys using face-to-face interviews for data collection have been replaced by internet surveys (such as the German Internet Panel). Internet surveys exploit the connectivity of respondents at home or at the office via their personal computer (desktop or laptop), introducing a high degree of temporal flexibility and thus cost effectiveness into the process of data collection. The fast spread of mobile devices now provides an additional opportunity to optimize data collection along these dimensions, as people now may be able to respond to survey questions without sharing scarce time resources for survey participation. Instead, mobile devices allow respondents to flexibly answer questionnaires while idling such as waiting in a line, commuting or watching TV. Hence, an obvious advantage of mobile data collection is that respondents may devote less time costs to surveys, making it more attractive to participate, thus reducing nonresponse and attrition. Moreover, such a survey method makes respondents more mobile, for instance, to look up documents to provide accurate information, which positively affects data quality. Yet, collecting data via mobile devices bears the risk of obtaining distorted data if respondents fail to concentrate on the content of the questions and the answering process. Response behavior might change with this different survey mode. Accordingly, data collection via mobile devices faces opportunities as well as challenges.
This research proposal focuses on the advancements and challenges of mobile devices for survey data collection, analyzing the use of mobile devices along different dimensions such as data quality, survey costs, availability of populations and response behavior, across several populations (including Europe, USA as well as developing countries). We combine different strands of social science research, connecting Survey Methodology, Econometrics, Behavioral Economics and Health Economics in longitudinal settings. The project will provide future avenues for general data collection procedures and has important implications for improvements in data quality and the provision of information and treatments to influence respondent behavior.