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Data Talks: The NCAER Data Innovation Centre Methodology Seminars
March 18, 2021


The first in a new NCAER seminar series on Data Collection Methodology was organised by the NCAER National Data Innovation Centre on March 18, 2021. This first seminar, presented by Stanley Presser, Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, is part of a series of provocative discussions on data collection methodologies in which distinguished speakers in the field share their views and one or more discussants reflect on them from an Indian perspective. Data Journalist Rukmini S. was be the discussant for this seminar.  This first seminar was held virtually.

Professor Presser argued that data collection is a misleading metaphor because data are constructed not collected. Hence, methodology and substance are inseparable. The implication is to upend the distinction between “results” and their “interpretation”.  He illustrated the argument by two examples of social change in the United States, one involving volunteering activities and the other, attendance at religious services. 

Professor Presser is interested in the interface between social psychology and survey measurement. His research focuses on questionnaire design and testing, the accuracy of survey responses, non-response, and ethical issues stemming from the use of human subjects. His journey as a social science researcher exemplifies the title of his talk: how methodology and substance are inextricably interwoven. His books on the subject, as co-author and Chief Editor, include Questions and Answers in Attitude Surveys (with Howard Schuman), Survey Questions (with Jean Converse), and Methods for Testing and Evaluating Survey Questionnaires (as Chief Editor). He has served as Editor of Public Opinion Quarterly, and as President of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, and is an elected fellow of the American Statistical Association. He was Director of the Maryland Survey Research Center from 1989 to 2000. 
 
Rukmini S. is one of India’s few data journalists and was the first Data Editor of an Indian publication while at The Hindu. She was most recently Editor—Data and Innovation at HuffPost India. Rukmini writes mainly on gender, crime, law, caste, inequality and is passionate about engaging storytelling. She studied in Mumbai and London, worked in Delhi, and now lives and works in Chennai.