New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network

The future of quantitative data collection

Given the recent advances in technologies and our general move towards social networking as a means of communication and interaction, the future of data collection will no longer be limited to surveys, interviews and ethnographies.

In 2014, mobile internet users will outnumber desktop users globally for the first time, not to mention mobile internet devices now outnumber the world’s total human population!

This means that researchers will need to adapt to a change in the data collection platform and prepare for a slew of new data collection softwares that take advantage of new technologies like wearable computers and geospatial information resources that support mobile field technologies in data collection.

Threatened by the bias of self-report data, research is moving away from traditional methods of data collection and towards real-time data and analytics, also called passive data collection – a methodology where everyday behaviours (as opposed to reported ones) can be tracked using advanced information systems.

For organizations conducting market research, this shift (towards what is referred to as “data-driven commerce systems” or “data trading systems”) means that in the blink of an eye, companies with an active social media presence are able to conduct large scale behavioural experiments.   According to a recent Globe and Mail article this shift “…has profound commercial and social implications. Not only does this behavioural data have immense financial value, there exits no set of rules or ethical guidelines dictating what sort of experiments tech companies can and can’t run on their user bases. That leaves each company, essentially, to make the rules up as it goes along.”

One controversial example is the recent Facebook experiment that manipulated content in users’ news feeds to examine the extent of emotional contagion. Examples like these confirm a need for data protection, policies on privacy, and more research on ethical responsibility and accountability.

As with all new research endeavours, the parameters are blurry and the possibilities are endless.  This is an exciting time to discuss the future of open data and to design the way forward in New Brunswick.   I hope you will join us on November 24th and 25th to explore this and much more at our upcoming GovMaker Conference!

In the meantime, I would love to hear your feedback.  Feel free to send comments, or relevant research to

Copyright 2013
A Ginger Design