Current Innovations in Probability-based Household Internet Panel Research 

March 4 -5, 2021

2020 has turned out to be an extraordinary year of global health, economic and geopolitical crisis, shattering everyday routines and future expectations across all levels of society. Timely and reliable information on rapidly-changing beliefs and behavior is more important than ever.  As COVID-19 has rendered  face-to-face interviewing next to impossible while telephone response rates continue to decline,  population-representative probability-based internet panels have a key role to play in monitoring crucial developments and shaping the research and policy response. In turn, the heightened need for probability-based household internet panels leads to a renewed urgency for greater transparency, best practice lessons, and accountability in approaches to panel recruitment, retention, and management. 

It is therefore with great pleasure that we announce our third Current Innovations in Probability-based Household Internet Panel Research (CIPHER) conference in 2021, to provide a platform for researchers to share challenges, opportunities, and successes. The third CIPHER conference will be entirely virtual and will take place on 4th and 5th March, 2021.

Although we do not exclude any topics a priori, we are especially interested in submissions on the following topics:

  • Transparency and best practices in probability-based panel recruitment and retention practices;
  • COVID pandemic and its effects;
  • Survey methodology and practice; 
  • Experiments;
  • Data management and linkages;
  • Developments in analysis techniques;
  • Applications of research;
  • Combination of wearable devices data with self-reports;
  • Naturally occurring data; and
  • Machine learning.

Registration Details
This conference is made possible through grant funding from the Social Security Administration, the National Institute on Aging, and the Center for Economic and Social Research at USC. There is no charge to attend this conference. 

The conference will be held virtually. We will send participants additional information closer to the date. 

Program and Registration
The program for the conference will be available in advance of the conference.

The conference will be live and will be recorded for future viewing. 

Taking advantage of the survey panel infrastructure of the nationally representative Understanding America Study (UAS), we have been fielding surveys of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on American households since March 10, 2020. Since April 1, 2020, we repeat surveys every two weeks. A description of the set-up of the bi-weekly survey and how to download the data collected so far (including added contextual data) are here.

Thanks to generous support by the National Institute on Aging, we will be able to provide space for added questions in our Understanding Coronavirus Panel Study, free of charge. This opportunity is for small additions to the survey. With appropriate external funding, researchers may also make larger contributions of content to the survey.  Please contact us at if you have external funding and are interested adding more than the rules below permit.

Rules for additional questions, free of charge:

1.  The first selection of additional questions will be from proposals that have been submitted before November 30.

a.  After November 30 we select proposals on a rolling basis.

2.  We expect to include additional questions every two weeks.

3.  We have room for one minute of additional question time per wave. One minute of question time is equivalent with three simple questions, such as yes-no questions or questions that require answers on a “agree… disagree” scale. We refer to this set of questions as a “module”.

4.  Submissions are screened by UAS staff to verify that proposals meet the criteria laid out below.  Proposals that pass the initial screen are evaluated by an external committee (not involving UAS staff) within two weeks of receipt. The committee recommends to “accept”, “reject”, or “accept conditional on making changes”.

5.  Questions from a selected proposal get fielded as soon as possible and in the order proposals have been accepted. If there is a backlog, it will be posted on the UAS web-site. In exceptional cases, UAS staff will take into account time sensitivity of proposals in selecting the order in which modules are fielded. Once a survey is scheduled for fielding, we expect a member of the proposing team to be available for testing the programmed version of the questions before fielding.

6.  The team that proposed the module, will have access to the data during data collection. The data resulting from the added questions to a particular wave are included in the data for that wave (and the covid longitudinal file) and hence are available for use by any interested researcher immediately after completion of a field period.

7.  Dimensions that increase the probability of selection of a proposal:

a.  Takes advantage of the longitudinal nature of the data and of the information that already has been collected in the Covid tracking survey or in the UAS more broadly;

b.  Scientific merit;

c.  Clarity of the proposed questions;

d.  Time sensitivity;

e.  Policy relevance.

8.  Although research groups can propose as many modules as they like, preference will be given to proposals by teams that have not had previous proposals accepted.

9.  Proposals should include a one-page (max) motivation for the inclusion of the extra questions, as well as final drafts of the proposed additional questions.

10.  Authors should commit to preparing at least one publication using the added questions, while acknowledging the funder (“Data collection for this paper has been supported by the National Institute of Aging under grant 5U01AG054580-03”)

Review Committee Details

Greg Duncan (chair) University of Michigan

Tim Bruckner University of California, Irvine

Jeremy Freese Stanford University

Andrew Parker RAND

Alex Rees-Jones University of Pennsylvania

Submission Details

The deadline for submitting a single document with a one page detailed proposal and your preferred questions is rolling, but as space is limited we advise you to submit as soon as you can.

To submit, attach a pdf which includes a one page proposal and one page of questions.


Please feel free to contact us at with questions.