Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences
Metadata for Long-standing Large-Scale Social Science Surveys
The American National Election Studies (ANES), General Social Survey (GSS) and Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) are long-term survey projects that form key research infrastructure for the social and behavioral sciences. The value of these three projects depends in part on data accessibility and ease of use. These data dissemination activities provide value far beyond the original data collection effort. That value consists of providing access and tools that enable dissemination to a wide range of user communities-- from social scientists to advance knowledge and test theories, to teachers in secondary schools to explain basic statistical and analytic methods, to citizens outside of the higher education and research communities who use the data to generate basic descriptive statistics and graphs.
The ANES is a 60-year time series of survey data collections that began in 1948. The ANES conducts national surveys of the American electorate during election years as well as conducts research and development work through pilot studies. The ANES is considered the 'gold standard' data source for election studies; it sheds light on how American democracy works by exploring the causes and consequences of citizen opinion, vote choices, and electoral outcomes. The GSS has provided data on contemporary American society since 1972, serving as a barometer of social change and trends in attitudes, behaviors, and attributes of the United States adult population. The GSS is a nationally representative personal interview survey of the United States adult population that collects data on a wide range of behavioral items, personal psychological evaluations, and demographic characteristics of respondents and their parents. Lastly, the PSID is a longitudinal survey of a nationally representative sample of US families that began in 1968. The PSID is the world's longest running nationally representative panel survey. With over forty years of data on the same families and their descendents, the PSID is considered a cornerstone of the data infrastructure for empirically-based social science research in the US and the world.
Over the course of the extensive survey cycles the three survey projects have accumulated important metadata, or "data about data" including technical reports, survey instruments and other information that describe the survey process. These metadata exist in many different formats (text and non-text-based) and have been stored in different ways depending on the date of the original data collection, the available technologies at that date (paper, scanned into PDF, and other formats), and access to storage facilities. Currently, these metadata are not in a format that allows for easy analysis within any one survey and the surveys do not have common data formats that would enable analysis of data across surveys. The lack of metadata limits the usefulness of the legacy data from early survey waves. Researchers interested in using the data under current conditions must invest significant time and effort to understand the data structure. This limits the ability of interdisciplinary scientists to analyze data from two or more of the surveys. And finally it limits the availability of the survey results from all three surveys to the broad public that is interested in questions about democracy, family well being, and social attitudes.This solicitation seeks proposals that will develop tools to bridge data collection and dissemination by first, collecting and coding metadata associated with future waves of the ANES, GSS, and PSID surveys as collection and processing techniques evolve; and second, migrating (or "retrofitting") metadata associated with earlier (i.e., legacy) waves of these surveys into formats and schema that are compatible with current and future collection efforts. The goal is to fund projects that will help make the many years of legacy data available to researchers who seek to answer current scientific questions.
What Has Been Funded (Recent Awards Made Through This Program, with Abstracts)
Map of Recent Awards Made Through This Program