Innovation in online data collection for scientific research: The Dutch MESS project

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Not many long-running scientific studies in Europe or the United States use online panels. Leading scientific studies mostly use face-to-face or telephone interviews to collect data. However, Internet interviewing is cost-effective and offers various new possibilities for empirical research in the social sciences. In principle, one can measure new or complex concepts in much shorter time frames than is customary in more traditional survey research. Furthermore, the technology allows for, for example, experimentation, follow-up data collection, and respondents’ feedback.

Based on earlier experiences with an online scientific panel, an advanced data collection environment for the social sciences was proposed in the Netherlands: ‘An Advanced Multi-Disciplinary Facility for Measurement and Experimentation in the Social Sciences’ (MESS). The facility creates maximal opportunities for innovation, is fast, and freely accessible for everyone in the scientific community. The core of this facility is a representative panel of households that have agreed to be available for regular interviews over the Internet: the LISS (Longitudinal Internet Studies for the Social sciences) panel. In addition to traditional questionnaire settings, the facility accommodates use of visual displays, preloading of data, and self-administered measurement of biomarkers. The project aims at integrating various fields of study, such as economics, social sciences, (bio)medical science and behavioral science.

Funding for the project was secured in 2006. This paper describes the needs to which the MESS project was responding and the process of setting up the facility. Attention will also be paid to the cost and sustainability of a facility like MESS, and to wider developments (beyond the borders of the Netherlands).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-24
JournalMethodological Innovations Online
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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