Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Survey Says?

I've been working on a project this fall with a student, building off a project he did for a class last spring, which looks at how high school teachers do a specific sort of thing.

We're using a survey, and then following up with interviews if folks are willing.

You know what this means.  Yes, the IRB.  This is a computer survey, so we aren't even worried about possible paper cuts, but of course these things need to get done.  (And while I may sound flip, because I think the risk of harm from our survey is laughably small, I think it's vital that researchers treat human subjects well and with real respect.  The thing is, I think we're held to a higher standard than the people who make you sign a thing when you enter a clinic/hospital saying that they can do anything they like with whatever they find, and if you don't like it, they won't treat you at the clinic/hospital.  We HAVE to include a statement [and take it seriously] that our subjects can opt out without any coercion.)

The student has been doing most of the leg work, with me providing guidance, which is how it should be.  He's done background reading (much of which I found and read over the summer to figure out if such a project might be useful and interesting), done some searching in high school text books, did the IRB certification (I did a re-up on mine, too), and put together the survey.

And then we submitted it, and waited.  And the IRB folks sent it back with some suggested revisions.  So we made those, and resubmitted, and waited.  And then we got to do some more revisions (all of which were helpful), and clarifications.  Then we got the go-ahead.

But then the survey test email was a mess.  It turned out that the way it displayed letterhead made it seem like there was something really bad on the email, so it wouldn't download the letterhead, and therefore also the letter, without a special click.  And since no one is crazy enough to special click something they've received from crazy people at some university, we knew that wouldn't work.

Happily, the student worked with the IT folks here (who are wonderful in all sorts of ways, and great and helpful at solving problems), and voila, it worked, and now it's sent out.

So now we wait to find out!

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