Bella Struminskaya, Peter Lugtig, Florian Keusch, Jan Karem Höhne
Augmenting Surveys With Data From Sensors and Apps: Opportunities and Challenges

Social Science Computer Review, In Press: (publ. online before print)
ISSN: 0894-4393 (print), 1552-8286 (online)

The increasing volume of “Big Data” produced by sensors and smart devices can transform the social and behavioral sciences. Several successful studies used digital data to provide new insights into social reality. This special issue argues that the true power of these data for the social sciences lies in connecting new data sources with surveys. While new digital data are rich in volume, they seldomly cover the full population nor do they provide insights into individuals’ feelings, motivations, and attitudes. Conversely, survey data, while well suited for measuring people’s internal states, are relatively poor at measuring behaviors and facts. Developing a methodology for integrating the two data sources can mitigate their respective weaknesses. Sensors and apps on smartphones are useful for collecting both survey data and digital data. For example, smartphones can track people’s travel behavior and ask questions about its motives. A general methodology on the augmentation of surveys with data from sensors and apps is currently missing. Issues of representativeness, processing, storage, data linkage, and how to combine survey data with sensor and app data to produce one statistic of interest pertain. This editorial to the special issue on “Using Mobile Apps and Sensors in Surveys” provides an introduction to this new field, presents an overview of challenges, opportunities, and sets a research agenda. We introduce the four papers in this special issue that focus on these opportunities and challenges and provide practical applications and solutions for integrating sensor- and app-based data collection into surveys.