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Giving Back and Expanding Horizons through Volunteer Research

by Guest Blogger
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With the added leisure time that comes in retirement, many seek out fresh ways to broaden their horizons.

A new research laboratory at Harvard University offers a great opportunity to do just that. The Harvard Digital Lab for the Social Sciences (DLABSS) gives people of all ages the chance to share their opinions on social science research questions.

Cutting-Edge Research Lab

DLABSS is a unique and growing community. It has hosted over 130 studies, netting over 90,000 individual survey responses. Right now, there are more than 25,000 volunteers who respond to surveys on DLABSS. They come from all over the world, including all 50 U.S. states and numerous countries across the globe.

DLABSS is a novel research opportunity. The lab harnesses the power of the internet to make social science accessible to a broad audience.

It is easy to sign up for DLABSS from the comfort of your home. All it takes is an email address and a few minutes. Once you’ve signed up, you will receive a biweekly email with an opportunity to participate in a new online survey conducted by a researcher at Harvard University.

A Learning Experience

Respondents on DLABSS have noted how rewarding participation is. First, DLABSS exposes participants to cutting-edge academic research surveys from a number of different fields.

DLABSS offers a free, online platform for volunteers from across the world to participate in and learn from groundbreaking social science experiments.

Some topics on which you can currently take surveys include Social Security, religion in America, and gun control. Most surveys take about 5 minutes to complete, and you have the option to skip any survey you don’t want to take.

One DLABSS volunteer, Kimi, has stated, “Whatever survey you start with will more than likely cause you to think in a new light… You may learn something new about yourself.” Another DLABSS participant, Alex G. writes, “The best feature of DLABSS is that it opens up social science research to a [new] group of people.”

DLABSS volunteers have indicated that DLABSS is a great way to pass the time and helps them think critically about the world around them.

A Fulfilling Way to Give Back

DLABSS also provides a way to volunteer or “give back” from the comfort of the home. Research on critical issues like immigration, Medicare programs, and corruption is often costly to conduct, especially given the shrinking availability of public funding and grants.

DLABSS reduces the financial barriers to conducting research so that undergraduate and graduate students can get survey responses.

Bobby N., a previous DLABSS volunteer, comments, “It was easy and quick, and I know that those responses are valuable data to researchers.”

Be Part of a Community

By volunteering with DLABSS, you support a unique online lab that helps researchers who are passionate about the social sciences. You get to learn about new topics by taking surveys from your own home and on your own time.

To volunteer for DLABSS, you can click the survey links above or visit our website.

When you take your first survey, you will be asked to provide some basic background information about yourself for researchers to use in analyzing their data. Your information remains private. Your responses and your email address will never be shared outside of the research lab.

Once you have taken one survey, you are enrolled in the study panel and will receive biweekly opportunities to participate on new topics. Periodically, DLABSS even holds raffles for gift cards and other prizes as a way to thank its volunteers for participating.

If you are interested in broadening your horizons, giving back, and learning while helping researchers, DLABSS is a great resource for you. To get started, visit http://dlabss.harvard.edu/.

By Amy Lakeman

Director of Recruitment and Lab Manager at Harvard Digital Lab for the Social Science

Amy Lakeman is the Lab Manager at DLABSS and a doctoral student in Harvard University’s Department of Government. She is primarily interested in political behavior and the relationship between religion and American politics.


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