Human Factors

With any data collection initiative, NORC examines the effects of the study on human subjects to minimize burden and heighten effective particpation using tested methodological techniques and applying appropriate uses of technology.

Respondent Burden

NORC operates its own Institutional Review Board (IRB) which follows a formal process for examining all research projects to assure human subjects protections and minimize respondent burden. In addition, NORC routinely produces materials for Office of Management and Budget (OMB) review of proposed federal data collection efforts, including their review of respondent burden minimization techniques. Beyond federal requirements, NORC researchers strive to reduce respondent burden in order to maximize response and overall public benefit deriving from survey research work

Cooperation and Participation

NORC’s general approach to gaining cooperation from individuals and institutions begins with education. Through mailings, phone contacts, and project websites, NORC provides prospective respondents with information about ourselves, the project’s sponsor, the history and goals of a project, and an overview of the data collection process. Often, letters of endorsement from governmental agencies or community leaders are included to attest to the importance of a study. Additionally, when possible, we offer means to make general study results available to stakeholders. Often the most creative techniques are required for projects that target specific vulnerable or hard to reach populations.  Incentives are also employed when appropriate to the respondent group.

Technology Use

NORC constantly shepherds innovation in technology to enhance data collection and methodological research. NORC used scanners to collect copies of respondents’ energy bills for the Residential Energy Consumption Survey. We used GPS devices to locate selected housing units for the General Social Survey, and tablets to transform respondent neighborhood maps into datasets for analysis for Making Connections. The collection of biomarkers for the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project involved new technologies for data collection. NORC designs, tests, and implements a variety of methodological approaches that seek to improve the interface between our technological systems and the users of that technology, improving the work environment and enhancing data accuracy and reliability.

Representative Projects

Men’s Assessment of Social Support and Risk Networks. The goal of the Men’s Assessment of Social Support and Risk Networks was to pilot test recruitment procedures and questionnaires to assess the influence of social networks and norms and beliefs of a racially and ethnically diverse sample of men who have sex with men (MSM) on their sex and sex-drug risk and risk reduction practices.   More


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