Administering the survey:
For some of the “larger” actors like markets and waste managers, I chose to try and meet them in-person to fill-out the survey so that I could be sure they were interpreting my questions the same way I was and to be able to clarify anything and ask follow-up questions. Ultimately however it seems that one needs to be flexible with how the actors feel more comfortable taking the survey (in person, on the phone, on paper, or online). Thus in my initial contact I favored the “meeting with them” option but also said they could fill the survey out in the other ways.
The real decisions were really about how to administer the survey to all the UA actors. There were a lot of actors and there were no good alternative ways to get the data other than the survey. I wanted to have as many actors as possible taking it (given that the data they provide are accurate however). I really hesitated between in-person interviews so that I could make sure people were answering the questions “correctly” and I would have an idea of certainty of answers, and an online survey to get to the most people in the least amount of time.
However, when doing the pilot with friends and the first in-person survey, it became clear that it was generally necessary for me (or a collaborator) to be there to be sure people fully answered all the questions. Quantitative data seems straight-forward to me as scientist but its not that easy to do in a quick survey.
Still I was faced with the fact that I had a lot of people to go interview and thus needed assistants in addition to my great collaborators. I needed to train assistants to have good ethics, take good notes, and explain the project correctly as we want to minimize bias between data collectors (more on this in another post). In my contact with people I still offer the option to do the survey online but emphasize that its easier to fill-out in person because you have a resource to ask for clarification and help.