UF Survey Research Center

Established in 1983 to conduct research on consumer attitudes and buying behavior in Florida, the Bureau of Economic and Business Research Survey Research program has grown into a state-of-the-art survey research program conducting telephone, mail, web, in-person and mixed-mode surveys for university investigators, state and local agencies, and non-profit research centers.

Our Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) survey lab has 93 stations, making it among the largest university-based survey units in the country. The survey facility is located in a secured building in downtown Gainesville, Florida. The CATI software used to conduct surveys uses Wincati sample management and Ci3 questionnaire authoring and runs on a Windows 2003 file server that is dedicated to this purpose in a virtual machine environment. No other IT services are run from this server. Backups are performed both on-site and off-site.

The state of the art VOIP telephone system uses Asterisk open source technology. This allows us to record 100% of the phone calls. Our system also facilitates live monitoring during shifts and allows clients to conduct real-time monitoring remotely. In addition, we have a toll-free number that is given to respondents if they have questions or concerns about any survey. The toll-free number is also used when interviewers leave answering machine messages.

A key component of the UFSRC management is our locally developed Java-based lab management software called Scheduler. This software tool sets the UFSRC apart from most survey labs in both the public and private sector. This software, written by UFSRC programmers, provides a fair and objective review of interviewer performance. Scheduler runs in the background and interfaces with Wincati, our licensed sample management program, to create an environment of ongoing, unobtrusive monitoring while optimizing the assignment of interviewers to various projects and ensuring that telephone numbers are called at the specified times. It handles many of the urgent tasks that typically fall to supervisors, so that they are free to focus on the more important issues of interviewing technique and nurturing new interviewers.

With 93 CATI stations, the number of interviewers on staff often exceeds 200, depending on survey load, which fluctuates throughout a given year. About 20-30 of these are fluent in both Spanish and English, including some supervisors. The UFSRC is one of the largest employers of students at the University of Florida, although over half of the interviewing staff is non-student. This gives us the benefits of having an interviewing force that is educated and enthusiastic, while maintaining continuity without risk of “gaps” during school breaks. Our interviewer corps is ethnically diverse and balanced by gender.

The security of data collected is a priority for UFSRC. We have an onsite IT staff plus three BEBR staff members who are able to help with any issue that may arise. Servers are kept in locked racks, behind three sets of locked doors. A router is configured with narrow access control lists that allow access only from the campus network. The survey research databases cannot be directly accessed from computers outside our local area network. All client computers are connected to managed switches that are monitored to detect unauthorized access 24 hours a day, seven days a week by the BEBR IT department.