Using new technologies in longitudinal studies

A new report commissioned by CLOSER considers the impact and opportunities of new technology on data collection.

New technologies are increasingly being used in social research to improve the quality and quantity of data collection. Smartphones, fitness trackers and apps can be used by researchers to collect data, whilst social media, smartmeters and store cards can add new dimensions to traditionally collected data.

What impact do these new technologies have on the data collected? And how should researchers use them? To find out CLOSER hosted a workshop to consider the challenges and impact of new technology for longitudinal studies and the findings of this workshop have now been published as a report. The workshop included evidence and expertise from the eight longitudinal studies within the CLOSER network, including Understanding Society.

The report was co-authored by Professor Annette Jäckle, Director of Understanding Society’s Innovation Panel, who commented, “new technologies offer potential advantages over questionnaire-based data collection in terms of the content and quality of data collected, the burden placed on respondents and the cost of data collection. However, which of these benefits can be realised depends on the features of the technology, how it us used and, most importantly, the purpose of collecting data in this way.

Professor Alison Park, Director of CLOSER, said: "The authors’ conclusions illustrate the value of the workshops. By bringing together different longitudinal studies at events such as these, we can share all our experiences and learn from each other. It’s clear that there are huge opportunities for using new technologies, particularly for collecting health-related data. 

“But discussions between the studies will highlight and hopefully help to overcome the challenges that these technologies bring with them.”

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