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ASA/NSF/BLS Senior Research Fellow Program

General Information

See the main Fellowship page for more information on eligibility and application requirements. Applicants may also be interested in topics in Statistics or Economics.

Behavioral Science

Behavioral science research approaches help to better understand psychological, sociological, and anthropological factors in the survey data collection process. Research in this area could be conducted with existing data or with studies conducted in the field.

Mode Effects and Data Management

As the use of technology advances, BLS programs are in the process of adding new modes to existing surveys to accommodate respondent preferences. Examples include the web diary in the American Time Use Survey, and use of mobile devices in the Consumer Expenditure Survey. There are many issues related to this, including:

  • Understanding mode effects, such as the relationships between mode, response, and data quality
  • Understanding how to introduce multiple modes to respondents, in parallel or sequentially
  • Exploring how to combine data collected using different modes (e.g., whether post-collection adjustment is necessary)

Nonresponse in Establishment Surveys

Like most surveys, achieving or maintaining a high response rates for BLS establishment surveys has become more difficult over time. We seek to better understand non-response across our establishment surveys, answering questions such as:

  • Are there establishment characteristics related to nonresponse?
  • Are there certain response patterns in panel surveys that are related to nonresponse?
  • Are there characteristics of the survey or questions that are related to future nonresponse?

Autobiographical Memory

Nearly all BLS household surveys rely on respondents’ abilities to recall information about their past behaviors to answer survey questions. Having a good understanding of how autobiographical information is stored and retrieved from memory will help BLS design more effective survey questions and procedures. Potential research topics include:

  • Identifying features of the survey (e.g., question topic or format, reference period, interviewing protocols, etc.) and respondent (e.g., cognitive ability, motivation, etc.) that impact retrieval and reporting of autobiographical information
  • Developing optimal retrieval strategies and cues for reporting quantitative aspects of autobiographical events (e.g., expenditures, activity durations, frequency estimates, etc.)

Respondent-Interviewer Interactions

Many BLS surveys utilize interviewers for data collection. Research shows that interviewers can significantly impact the response process; affecting how respondents formulate or map responses; affecting whether they respond to a question or interview request; and potentially biasing data collected. Obtaining a better understanding of the interactions between interviewers and respondents is important as BLS develops training, instruments, and procedures. Potential research topics include:

  • Coding recordings of interviews to understand how interviewers follow scripted questions and procedures and the causes for deviations from such procedures.
  • Exploring the impact of non-scripted probes on respondent responses

Usability of Data Collection, Analysis, and Dissemination Systems

BLS designs and builds many kinds of systems, and we are always looking to improve the user experience of our products. Potential research topics include:

  • Designing paper and web forms to better meet respondents’ needs and expectations
  • Improving methods for finding data on the BLS website
  • Innovations in data visualization and interactive data displays

Accessibility and Section 508 Compliance

BLS strives to provide accessible products. Potential relevant research topics in this area include:

  • Understanding issues related to the accessibility of our data collection instruments and public website
  • Designing complex data tables that are fully accessible


Last Modified Date: September 11, 2023