(CLOSED) NSF 20-550 General Social Survey (GSS) Competition 2020

Sponsor Name: 
Description of the Award: 

The General Social Survey (GSS) is a nationally representative interview survey of the United States adult population that collects data on a wide range of topics: behavioral items such as group membership and participation; personal psychological evaluations including measures of well-being, misanthropy, and life satisfaction; attitudinal questions on such public issues as crime and punishment, race relations, gender roles, and spending priorities; and demographic characteristics of respondents and their parents. The GSS has provided data on contemporary American society since 1972, serving as a barometer of social change and trends in attitudes, behaviors, and attributes of the United States adult population. In 1984, the GSS stimulated cross-national research by collaborating with Australia, Britain, and Germany to develop data collection programs modeled on the GSS. This program of comparative cross-national research, called the International Social Survey Program (ISSP), now includes 43 nations and enables researchers and analysts to place findings and trends from the United States within a comparative context.

Since its inception, the GSS has completed 32 in-person, cross-sectional surveys of the adult household population of the United States with response rates that exceed 60 percent. The survey is currently fielded biennially. Data from the GSS are made available to scholars, students and the public for research, analysis and educational activities within 12 months of data collection.

Several innovations have been initiated over the past 15 years, most of which warrant continuation. Beginning with the 2006 administration, the GSS "core" questions (items that appear regularly on surveys) were translated into Spanish and administered in either English or Spanish, as needed. The 2016 survey contained an Internet mode experiment. To enable linkage to secondary data, since 2018 respondents have been asked for permission to link to selected administrative records. Post-stratification weights have been introduced for the 2020 survey.

The Sociology Program in the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences expects to make one award for the next four-year funding cycle, fiscal years 2021-2024, to support the 2022 and 2024 GSS and the U.S. component of the ISSP survey. We anticipate an award in the range of $14 million and at most $16 million over four years to support two waves of data collection, dissemination activities, and outreach. The expected starting date is August 2021.

In 2016, a group of scholars organized by the Committee on National Statistics of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education at The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine conducted a study of the future of the “Big 3” Surveys that are funded in whole or part by the National Science Foundation.

We suggest that proposals consider some of the following suggestions stemming from that review:

  • Continue surveying a nationally representative sample on a biennial cycle to monitor trends in attitudes and behaviors of the adult United States population.
  • Enhance the panel design whose baseline sample was initiated in the 2006 survey.
  • Maintain participation in the ISSP data collection program.
  • Involve the Board of Overseers actively in selecting, evaluating and approving the content of both core and topical survey modules.
  • Support a “module” competition that would allow members of the Board of Overseers and other social scientists to propose topics and questions for inclusion in the GSS.
  • Encourage experimentation and innovation in survey administration and techniques, embedding methodological and substantive experiments within the survey.
  • Retain and revitalize GSS core items, involving the user community and Board in the process.
  • Explore ways to over-sample minority groups, improving the quality and precision of comparisons, and collect more “paradata” and “metadata” from the process and context of survey administration.
  • Experiment with digital-recording of interviews to enable studies of social interaction that occurs during interviews, using the results both to improve data quality and to encourage the integration of qualitative and quantitative data.
  • Upgrade documentation and dissemination technologies to improve the speed, completeness, and ease of use of data for research and teaching.
  • Improve the variety and flexibility of data available online, allowing potential users to produce customized data sets (for example, by year, topic, module, or ethnic group) for analysis.
  • Explore possibilities for integration with the American National Election Studies.
Limit (Number of applicants permitted per institution): 
Sponsor LOI Deadline: 
Jun 01, 2020
Sponsor Final Deadline: 
Aug 17, 2020
OVPR Application or NOI Instructions: 

Interested applicants should go to the InfoReady link and submit the following documents in sequence in one PDF file (File name: Last name_NSF20-550_2020 no later than 4:00 p.m. on the internal submission deadline:

1. Cover Letter (1 page, pdf):

  • Descriptive title of proposed activity
  • Name(s), address(es), and telephone number(s) of the PD(s)/PI(s)
  • Names of other key personnel
  • Participating institution(s)
  • Number and title of this funding opportunity

2. Project Description (no more than two pages, pdf) and identify the project scope that addresses the key aspects and elements, principal investigators, collaborators, and partner organizations.

3. 2-page CV's of Investigators

Formatting Guidelines:

Font/size: Times New Roman (12 pt.)
Document margins: 1.0” (top, bottom, left and right)
Standard paper size (8 ½” x 11)
Questions concerning the limited submissions process may be submitted to limitedsubs@psu.edu.

To be considered as a Penn State institutional nominee, please submit a notice of intent by the date provided directly below.
This limited submission is in downselect: 
Penn State may only submit a specific number of proposals to this funding opportunity. The number of NOIs received require that an internal competition take place, thus, a downselect process has commenced. No Penn State researchers may apply to this opportunity outside of this downselect process. To apply for this limited submission, please use this link:
OVPR Downselect Deadline: 
Tuesday, March 31, 2020 - 4:00pm
No Applicants