By Kari Williams
If you are an avid IPUMS user who reads every email update, you have probably noticed that we pepper you with requests to complete our annual user survey. Perhaps you have asked yourself, “why bother?” or assumed we don’t really want YOUR feedback–that the survey is meant for a different type of IPUMS data user. We conduct an annual survey of data users for three reasons: 1) we value your input, 2) we want to invest in areas that benefit users, and 3) we reference your feedback when reporting to funders on current work and in applying for support to expand IPUMS. Let me assure you, we want to hear from YOU and we hope you take a few minutes to complete the survey.
Feedback is an important part of the IPUMS lifecycle. Our mission is to democratize access to the world’s social and economic data; data users are central to the success of this mission. We can learn a lot from registration numbers for each IPUMS data collection, the number and timing of online analysis or custom data extract requests, #poweredbyIPUMS publications, or questions and comments submitted to our User Support team. However, none of these is a substitute for directly asking users what they like most about IPUMS and what we can do better.
To help IPUMS work better for you, we must hear directly from you about how we can improve. Your feedback helps us understand what is working well and shouldn’t be changed (e.g., keep hosting Virtual Office Hours), what isn’t working (e.g., custom data extract wait times are too long), and what should be added (e.g., support for using IPUMS data in R). We ask targeted questions about features we plan to implement and want to tailor appropriately to our users needs (e.g., programmatic access to IPUMS data and metadata via an API), as well as an open-ended question for suggesting features to capture ideas that aren’t on our radar.
We also need to report to our funders. To continue making high-quality, harmonized data and support resources available free of charge, we need to highlight the value of the IPUMS data and demonstrate that IPUMS meets the needs of the data user community. Your comments help us emphasize the importance of expanding existing capabilities or building new functionality when we pursue resources to do this work. Your suggestions in the user survey may inspire a new feature with the potential to improve the experience of 300,000 IPUMS data users.
If you have already completed our survey for this year, thank you. We appreciate your input. If you haven’t yet, please take a moment to share your feedback. We value your opinions and suggestions, and we need to hear them so we can keep moving forward with our work.