Reflecting on 2015: DLABSS New Year's Resolutions

As we near the arrival of 2016, the DLABSS Team wants to quickly fill you in on what has been a highly productive 2015! In this post we share how DLABSS has grown in 2015, and introduce some major upgrades on the way next year. As always, we want to thank the many volunteer participants and Harvard researchers from around the world whose efforts are pushing social science forward.

Participant Growth

What we did in 2015: 

The DLABSS pool of volunteer participants is growing faster and more consistently than any time in our short history. As the below graph illustrates, our pool increased by nearly 300% in the last 12 months! We grew from just over 1,000 volunteers in January to well over 3,000 by mid December. Dozens of people are joining the DLABSS community every week.

While we are excited about our yearly growth, even more encouraging is the surge of new volunteers in recent weeks. As you can see from the below graph, weekly volunteer totals have spiked since November. Since mid-November, on average roughly 100 new people have joined DLABSS every week!

 What we are doing in 2016: 

We think this progress is but the tip of the iceberg. We are committed to making DLABSS the go-to resource for Harvard experimental social science. This goal requires an even larger subject pool. To this end, we are launching a brand new website in January 2016 that will make participating in DLABSS easier and more enjoyable for volunteers and researchers alike.

 Volunteer Diversity

 What we did in 2015:

One of the advantages of online survey research is that researchers can attract a wide variety of participants. Ideally a pool of respondents is representative of society. Below we illustrate the breakdown of our volunteer pool in terms of gender and education. As you can see in the below figures, so far women represent a slight majority within our volunteer community, while volunteers have very diverse educational backgrounds.

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What we are doing in 2016:

 Of course, survey research is not without limitations. Online labs such as MTurk, for example, have been shown to underrepresent minorities and produce samples biased towards younger generations. In 2015 we noticed that the DLABSS volunteer base was exhibiting similar trends. As such, we have formed partnerships with RetiredBrains and Workforce50.com, two senior citizen platforms, and are planning to engage more African American and Latino participants through online marketing. Our hope is that targeted marketing to diverse groups of potential volunteers will make DLABSS even more representative of the general population.

 Moreover, we are currently undergoing rigorous testing of DLABSS as a valid social science tool by using it to replicate several classic and contemporary social science experiments. Similar substantive results, if produced, will help build credibility for DLABSS as a viable resource for Harvard social scientists.

 Experiment Diversity

 What we did in 2015:

 We launched a total of 21 experiments by faculty, post-docs, graduate and undergraduate students from Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Kennedy School of Government, and 48% of experiments were primarily political in nature, 19% economic, 19% psychology, and 14% group and race relations. The plot below plots the cumulative number of responses for each survey in 2015, showing that almost all surveys received 200 responses within 3 weeks. The 5 lines in red represent the surveys from November and December 2015, signaling that our most successful surveys have been our most recent.

What we are doing in 2016:

In the short term, we are launching experiments on American politics, healthcare policy, risk acceptance, and personality. In addition, we hope to add more content on a wide range of issues--such as foreign policy, economics, and sports.

Finally, the team at DLABSS would like to thank all of our volunteers and researchers during 2015. Please join us for what promises to be a productive and enlightening 2016. Happy New Year!