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Why launch a new journal?

In July, the first issue of the Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology (JSSAM) will come out.  The launch of a new journal is always a source of great anticipation in the academic publishing world. We face many concerns about a proliferation of unnecessary journals, reduced library budgets, and creating valuable publications in a digital world. We sat down with editors Joe Sedransk and Roger Tourangeau to discuss the challenges of launching a new journal, the latest developments in the field of survey research, and what’s coming up this year.

Why have you decided to launch a new journal of survey research?

Well, we thought the field of survey research needed a flagship journal and, fortunately for us, the two largest professional organizations for survey researchers — the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the American Statistical Association (ASA) — shared our view. These organizations have agreed to sponsor the new journal. AAPOR will make the journal available to its more than 2,000 members as part of their annual dues — that is, at no added cost to them. And ASA will offer a similar deal to the 1,000+ members of its Survey Research Methods Section.

Isn’t there a danger of journal overload? How did you make such considerations?

Articles on survey statistics and methodology have traditionally been scattered across journals that focus primarily on statistics, sociology, political science, communications, epidemiology, demography, and a range of other disciplines. We thought it was time to have a journal that would focus only on survey statistics and methodology. Of course, there are now journals devoted mainly to survey topics, such as the Journal of Official Statistics and Survey Methodology. However, as valuable as these journals are, they are sponsored by government agencies and we believe that the flagship journal for the field should have the backing of the largest, most prestigious professional organizations for survey researchers. Hence, the new journal.

How has the field changed in the last 25 years?

The field has grown up. In the United States, three programs — at the University of Maryland, the University of Michigan, and the University of Nebraska — now offer doctoral degrees in survey methodology. There are also academic programs in survey methodology in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe. In the United States alone, more than forty doctorates in survey methodology have been awarded.  There are now textbooks covering every aspect of survey statistics and methodology. Survey statistics and methodology has become a fully-fledged discipline and we believe the time is ripe for it to have a journal that reflects that status.

What are some of the latest developments in survey research?

This may be a pivotal time for surveys. Survey costs are spiraling upward, response rates are falling, and many of the government agencies that sponsor surveys are likely to face serious budget cuts in the coming years. Moreover, partly in response to these problems, some researchers are giving up on probability sampling, a mainstay for survey research for the last sixty years. At the same time, everyone seems to want estimates based on survey data, often for ever-smaller areas or subgroups, and to make policy decisions based on these estimates.

Despite all these worrisome developments, surveys still seem to give accurate results. Whatever their problems, the polls were able forecast the outcome of the 2012 elections with almost uncanny accuracy. Similarly, according to Census Bureau evaluations, the 2010 census may have been the most accurate census ever done.

What do you hope to see in the coming years from both the field and the journal?

We hope that authors will surprise us with articles describing good work in areas we had not anticipated and we promise to be open to such work. Most of all, we hope that journal becomes a fount of high quality research in all areas of survey statistics and methodology.

Joseph Sedransk is Professor Emeritus of Statistics at Case Western Reserve University. Roger Tourangeau is a Vice President at Westat. Before going to Westat, he headed the Joint Program in Survey Methodology at the University of Maryland for nearly 10 years; during this time, he was also a Research Professor in the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center. Joseph Sedransk is the editor for statistical papers and Roger Tourangeau the editor for the methodological papers for the new Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology.

The Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology, sponsored by AAPOR and the American Statistical Association, will begin publishing in 2013. Its objective is to publish cutting edge scholarly articles on statistical and methodological issues for sample surveys, censuses, administrative record systems, and other related data. It aims to be the flagship journal for research on survey statistics and methodology.

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