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Time-Sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences (TESS)

Stock photo of a group of mixed ethnicity friends toasting while enjoying dinner during an outdoor backyard dinner party.
Helping early-career social science researchers collect high-quality data
  • Client
    Northwestern University
  • Dates
    2016 - Present

Problem

Researchers who want to conduct short experiments face challenges funding high-quality research.

High-quality survey work requires a deep level of expertise and can be expensive to conduct, and short experiments especially can be cost-prohibitive. Experimental researchers—especially those early in their careers—often lack the funding to pay for probability-based scientific surveys, even when they only need findings from a few questions. This inability to collect quality data can significantly hinder their ability to conduct publishable research and advance the field of social science research.

Solution

A NORC-supported program helps early-career researchers get the data they need.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Time-Sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences (TESS) project allows social scientists to fund experimental research through NORC’s AmeriSpeak® Panel. Social scientists propose the research idea to TESS and, if accepted, work with TESS principal investigators and NORC to hone their projects and craft and field their surveys.

AmeriSpeak employs rigorous scientific sampling and includes additional coverage of hard-to-survey population segments such as rural and low-income households. AmeriSpeak offers an industry-leading response rate and provides clients with an innovative sample-quality report card. Because AmeriSpeak has a standing panel, it can field surveys quickly, allowing researchers to quickly gather data on emerging issues. TESS-funded researchers have exclusive access to the data for a year, after which the data are shared with other social scientists and the public.

The TESS program’s principal investigators are Maureen Craig of New York University, James Druckman of Northwestern University, and Jeremy Freese of Stanford University. The managing principal investigator is Hannah Hamilton of the University of Chicago.

Result

NORC has fielded more than 120 TESS studies, working with researchers from more than 100 institutions. 

TESS survey results have been featured in many publications. The research topics addressed through TESS include:

  • How educational rankings influence students’ perceptions of college costs
  • The effect of social media content on teenagers’ political views
  • How people deal with conflicting information about nutrition and cancer risks
  • Public terminology and its impact on racial attitudes
     

In addition to survey data, TESS allows early career researchers to work with a wide network of social and data scientists, including members of NORC’s highly regarded staff.

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Solutions

“One of the things that excites me the most about TESS is how it emphasizes supporting young investigators—people working on their PhDs or those with newly minted PhDs in their first years of working in academia. TESS gives these young researchers a way to bring forth fresh ideas, supports them in developing a rigorous research plan, and allows them to collect high-quality probability data. It is a great way to grow the discipline of social science research and give these researchers the support needed to launch remarkable careers.”

Senior Director of Client Services

“One of the things that excites me the most about TESS is how it emphasizes supporting young investigators—people working on their PhDs or those with newly minted PhDs in their first years of working in academia. TESS gives these young researchers a way to bring forth fresh ideas, supports them in developing a rigorous research plan, and allows them to collect high-quality probability data. It is a great way to grow the discipline of social science research and give these researchers the support needed to launch remarkable careers.”

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