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Interagency Collaboration among the Cognitive Laboratories: Past Efforts and Future Opportunities

Elizabeth Martin, Susan Schechter, and Clyde Tucker

KEY WORDS: questionnaire pretesting


This paper provides a brief history (through the 1990s) of the formation and activities of cognitive laboratories for questionnaire pretesting at three Federal agencies: the National Center for Health Statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Census Bureau. We consider the circumstances that led to collaboration among the labs, including collaborative research on jointly sponsored or conducted surveys, collaborative efforts in support of content areas of common interest, and collaboration to advance survey methodology and improve survey practice. Examples of each type of collaboration are given, including the redesign of the Current Population Survey, research to understand sources of discrepancy between results produced by different measures of print disability, and the Second Advanced Seminar on Cognitive Aspects of Survey Methodology, or CASM II, held in 1997.

We conclude that, despite their critical role and potential to contribute more to survey methods research, the labs are not staffed sufficiently to meet basic agency needs for questionnaire pretesting. The paper describes three areas of the greatest potential gain from more intensive collaboration among the cognitive laboratories: coordinated programs of cognitive research and field experiments on measures of common interest, interagency research to evaluate testing protocols and methods and to replicate test results; and collaboration to set government-wide standards for surveys (e.g., for pretesting questionnaires).

CITATION: Elizabeth Martin, Susan Schechter and Clyde Tucker. 1999. “Interagency Collaboration among the Cognitive Laboratories: Past Efforts and Future Opportunities.” Pp. 359-387 in Statistical Policy Working Paper 28: 1998 Seminar on Interagency Coordination and Cooperation. Washington DC: Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology, Office of Management and Budget. April 1999.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Research Division

Created: January 26, 2007
Last revised: January 26, 2007

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Statistical Research Division | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: October 08, 2010