After passing my Prospectus Defense in December, my PhD project was suddenly real: I must now actually do primary research and write a several hundred page document. The best advice I have gotten so far is to take it one step at a time. So here is a progress report on Stage 1: The Survey.
I submitted my survey text to Rensselaer’s Institutional Review Board in January and received an exemption: “45CFR46.101(b)(2): Anonymous Surveys – No Risk”. Since my survey is anonymous and does not harm any of the respondents, I am cleared for action.
My target community is big social data researchers in the United States working out of academic institutions. For the first round of invitations, I have been using the 2015 IEEE/ACM International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining proceedings to solicit respondents. Everyone has been very polite and interested in my work, and I have had a solid 20% response rate. My goal is to get at least 20 responses, but I will continue collecting through the end of March.
For this initial survey, I am interested in how data scientists use interpretation to complete their projects and how they communicate their results to their audience. My survey questions focus on a few key themes. First, I was interested in how respondents understood their disciplinary role and why they became interested in big social data. Next, I asked about interpretation: how they decided on research questions and generated explanations for their results. If they changed their research questions mid-way through the analysis, I also wanted to know what steps they took to ensure accuracy. Then, I turned to technical aspects of the process, asking what steps they took and how they handled false-negative and false-positives. Finally, I asked about communicating results persuasively and to a target audience. The preliminary results look promising, and I personally find them fascinating!
In case anyone is particularly interested, here are the exact questions. The bulk of them are directed at the researcher’s specific project they submitted to the ASONAM conference. Continue reading