ESRA 2017 Programme

Tuesday 18th July      Wednesday 19th July      Thursday 20th July      Friday 21th July     

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Tuesday 18th July, 09:00 - 10:30 Room: F2 104

Get in touch - Stay in touch: Methodological and procedural efforts and advancements regarding field access and panel maintenance 1

Chair Dr Roman Auriga (Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories )
Coordinator 1André Müller-Kuller (Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories)
Coordinator 2Dr Götz Lechner (Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories)

Session Details

This session focuses on central methodological and procedural efforts and advancements in dealing with panel access and maintenance. With regard to target population characteristics, study designs, and environmental/systemic conditions, elaborated and customized communication- and operationalization strategies do matter, as access to panel samples is administered in manifold ways. In addition, dealing with and operationalizing complex designs requires specific panel strategies that have to be implemented to cope with the inherent complexity of studies.

Besides special requirements of the target population and the study design, major challenges for the administration of panel studies mainly arise due to the sovereignty and responsibility of gatekeepers and therefore the need for authorization (e.g., institutional surveys). During the negotiation and administration processes within a multidimensional system with multiple players (stakeholders, normative-institutional social actors, targets, etc.), various – sometimes competing and changing – interests need to be brought in line to gain and maintain access. Considering the renewal of the EU-data protection regulation (EU) 2016/679, fieldwork management has to be revisited.

Response errors (i.e., unit and item nonresponse), panel attrition and withdrawals are painful mistakes culminating in biases or panel error. Experiences and strategies in multi-informant, multi-cohort and mixed-mode panels (e.g. NEPS, BCS, SOEP, SHARE) should help to increase our understanding of the causes and consequences of nonresponse, refusal and withdrawal behavior is the fundamental basis for staying in touch.

As administrating panel studies is an important part of conducting panels successfully, we are going to concentrate on the art of panel-maintaining strategies in the fields of:
a) Increased understanding of nonresponse, refusal and withdrawal behavior. Which are the most appropriate ways for first and each successive contact and communication with target persons with regard to panel stability?
b) Multi-level negotiation strategies and tools dealing with systemic obstacles and the renewal of data protection regulations.
c) The reduction of response error and panel attrition considering particular framings of sense and meaning in target populations. Which characteristic communication strategies shall be addressed to target person’s lifeworld (Lebenswelt). How can trustful relations with target persons be fostered through customized communication offerings?
d) Advanced tracking and maintaining strategies comprising common and less common panel populations.

Paper Details

1. Get in touch: The role of the language style in invitation letters
Dr Roman Auriga (Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories)

Invitation/initial letters play a crucial role to the response rate of scientific surveys as this is often the only one way how the matters of a study can be addressed to the potential interviewees of a new survey. Evidence was also growing that the use of advance letters–prior the first contact with the interviewer–can decrease survey nonresponse. Therefore, examining the role of initial letters it has been tried e.g. to catch attention with the layout of the letters, with mentioning different subjects of the study depending on different groups or to allure the respondents by prepaid incentives. Unfortunately, there is still little known about the influence of the language used in the letters to the response rate. The presentation will focus on that topic and broach the issue of the question: which influence has the choice of the style of speech on the response rate.

Outcomes of an experiment with initial letters sent to completely new respondents will be shown in that were used two stylistic versions of the text (polite version versus more direct one) and three length versions. Analyses will be presented on the one side regarding the general response rate and the willingness to take part in the survey and on the other side with regard to the socio-demographic composition of the respondents who answered the different versions of the invitation letter. It seems that linguistic theories related to politeness and the length of texts couldn’t be supported. However, unexpected significant effect of socio-demographic characteristics of the contacted households could be found and will be discussed as well.

The second step of the analysis will concentrate on the influence of using different style of communication to the response rate by repeated measurement. We are going to discuss the influence of vocabulary used in the letters on the response rate in the second wave of the experiment.

2. Communicating with respondents: Adding more ways to collect data while maintaining respondent cooperation
Ms Esther Ullman (University of Michigan)
Ms Heidi Guyer (University of Michigan)

The Daily Experiences and Wellbeing Study (DEWS) is designed to assess physical and mental health as well as social integration among adults aged 65 and older. The study took place in one location in the southwest United States. The study was designed to integrate new technology to capture additional data among participants who completed a lengthy in-person survey. The in-person survey was interviewer administered and included self-reported physical health, social networks and interaction, a series of cognitive tests as well as blood pressure and grip strength measurements. Participants were then asked to wear an actigraph watch and an Android mobile phone for five days. The mobile phone had two data collection apps installed: the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) that captured sounds throughout the day (30 seconds of sound every 7 minutes) and a mobile ecological momentary assessment (mEMA) that delivered surveys when the respondent woke up, every three hours throughout the day, and at bedtime. The respondent was also provided with a self-administered leave behind questionnaire. After five days, the interviewer returned to collect the watch, the mobile phone and the self-administered questionnaire. At that time, the interviewer also requested the respondent’s permission to take a few pictures of a room in the respondent’s home using the mobile device. Monetary incentives were provided at the time of each of the in-home visits.

In this paper, we will review the informational materials respondents received before the interview including pre-notification letters and brochures, describe the “demo” mEMA survey respondents are shown as well as review the information provided in the consent form, as this information could prompt additional questions and concerns regarding the multiple requests and lead to non-response. We will also present agreement and completion rates for the various study components. Specifically, we will focus on questions and concerns expressed by respondents related to the sound recordings as that is potentially the most sensitive data captured, as well as legal statutes and institutional requirements in handling such data.

3. Challenges in Implementing a New Panel Study for the Research in Higher Education – The Case of the “Student Life Cycle”
Mr Johann Carstensen (German Center for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW))
Mr Sebastian Lang (German Center for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW))
Professor Monika Jungbauer-Gans (German Center for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW))

The contribution introduces a process to integrate two formerly distinct panel studies and discusses survey methodological challenges posed by the aims of this process.
The Student Life Cycle of the German Center for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW) is aiming to provide individual data about the transition to higher education, educational careers, the transition to and establishment of graduate employment as well as alternative work modes (such as family work) in the approx. 9 to 10 years after graduation. The project has two main objectives:

- The linkage and coordination of the large quantitative Panel Studies “DZHW Panel Study of School Leavers with a Higher Education Entrance Qualification” and the “DZHW Graduate Panel”
- The generation of panel data over longer observation periods.

The integration of the DZHW panel studies and the long-term observation of individuals provide several improvements for the analysis of the student life cycle. Educational careers can be examined more extensively in their chronological and sequential structure as well as in their embeddedness in the life course. The interactions of educational careers with other living areas, also taking into account socio-demographic characteristics, offer analyses that go far beyond the possibilities of official statistics. In addition, determinants of switching habits between tertiary education and alternative activities as well as their effects on employment opportunities and non-monetary returns on education can be taken into account.
These aims are especially challenging in implementing a suitable study design. Surveying individuals over multiple educational transitions and into the labor market requires specific efforts in sampling procedures and panel maintenance. On the one hand, the detrimental aims of prolonging the surveyed time span over multiple educational steps and ensuring integrity of long-lasting time series demanded by education policy pose a specific challenge. This is especially demanding regarding differences in field access between the original panel studies of school leavers and university graduates. Sampling procedures, along with suitable weighting and matching models, have to be carefully designed in a way that a comparability of data is still guaranteed. At the other hand it has to be made sure that respondents continue participation after transition into a new stage of their educational career and into the labor market.
The talk gives insights into the challenges and possible solutions of integrating existing panel surveys, making use of a design with multiple cohorts and sequences. It addresses problems of field access, sampling procedures, and panel maintenance given the need of preserving long-lasting time series demanded by education policy and introduces a concept to deal with said problems. In addition it introduces a new source of data for research in higher education.

4. Making Contact in Context of Cultural Diversity: Approaches, Challenges and Problems of Transmitting ‘Meaning’ Within Differing Cultural Spheres
Ms Kathrin Erbacher (Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories)

Although the recruitment of participants, and the panel maintenance necessary to ensure long-term willingness to participate, frequently presents a (communicative) challenge in and of itself, this is particularly true for studies where the demographic is characterized by high levels of heterogeneity, be it cultural – that is, linguistic or religious – or with regard to individuals’ age or personal circumstances. The proposed paper outlines the strategy and conception of the communicative support of the study ReGES – Refugees in the German Educational System, which is being conducted at the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories (LIfBi), investigating the conditions under which refugees can be successfully integrated into the German educational system. To this end, both the focus persons themselves – children over four years of age, and young people from age fourteen – and also context persons, among them the participants’ parents, but also teachers, other professionals, and volunteers will be evaluated and interviewed.

Part of the essential groundwork for a functioning communications strategy in this specific context is the clear definition of targets, the target group, and – based on these elements – the content to be communicated, not just in the sense of the language used, but also when conveyed via other channels. Compared to the communicative approach to and support of a more culturally homogenous demographic, this project must place greater emphasis on asking which symbols we can use, be they of a semantic, graphic, or iconic nature: Is the symbol suitable to convey my intended meaning? Which codifications are poly-cultural, and which, conversely, are only applicable to a certain cultural group, and thus unclear, or even misleading? These questions become even more complex when taking into account the fact that the ‘target group’ variable is difficult to define conclusively, seeing as the surveys’ participants include refugees speaking eight different languages, from even more countries of origin.

In a practical sense, this means that a purely linguistic translation of existing content will not be suffice: Instead, all our material has to be translated not just with regard to content, but also visually, and its potential implications assessed. This paper gives an account, then, not just of the efforts and problems involved in transmitting ‘meaning’ within differing cultural spheres, but also describes the practical approach taken in the development of a basis of communication and information for the ReGES project, for which we observed and analysed – for example – the conventions of media representation in the Arabic countries, and their visual and material implementation.