WSU sociologist Don Dillman honored by European Survey Research Association

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Regents professor Don Dillman, an internationally renowned survey methodologist, recently received the 2023 European Survey Research Association (ESRA) Outstanding Service Award in recognition of his sustained, high-level contributions to European survey research.

ESRA is the leading professional organization of survey researchers in Europe with members from academia, government, non-profit, and commercial sectors. The organization advances the use of survey research across all disciplines and promotes the communication and knowledge exchange between applied survey researchers, methodologists, and statisticians. 

Don Dillman

“I feel incredibly honored to be recognized by the association. For more than a decade, I have worked with surveyors from 21 different European countries aiding in the design and implementation of better questionnaires and new procedures for survey taking. Through collaboration and research, our work has led to better survey taking design and implementation in Europe, as well as here in the United States,” said Dillman, deputy director for research and development at WSU’s Social and Economic Sciences Research Center and a Department of Sociology faculty member. “I feel an enormous sense of gratitude to the European researchers for what I have learned and continued to learn through their research.”

Hired at WSU in 1969, Dillman is known for his deep understanding of high-quality surveys and how they can help nations and communities find solutions to pressing problems. His early work at WSU inspired a book, “Internet, Phone, Mail and Mixed Mode Surveys: The Tailored Design Method,” that’s now in its 4th edition and been a top seller for more than 40 years. 

In addition to this most recent international award, Dillman’s many prestigious honors include elections as Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Statistical Association, and career achievement awards from Statistics Canada, the Rural Sociological Society, the American Sociological Association and the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.

From 1991-1995, he served as the senior survey methodologist for the U.S. Bureau of the Census, where he provided leadership for the development of new questionnaire designs and procedures for the 2000 Decennial Census and other government surveys. 

“Don’s contribution to the field of sociology and survey methodology is unsurpassed. He has brought sophistication and sensibility to this fundamental method of knowledge generation, and in doing so has advanced the work of countless researchers, policy makers, and students worldwide,” said Todd Butler, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. 

Over the last decade, Dillman has transitioned his research to focus on designing successful web-push surveys. The method is a critically needed replacement for telephone surveys that are now experiencing low response rates. The web-push method has been used for censuses in Japan, Australia, Canada, China, and the United States, as well as sample surveys in dozens of other countries. Most recently, Dillman has focused on gaining a better theoretical understanding of why people do and do not respond to surveys. 

“For more than 50 years, Don has been investigating how different visual languages independently and collectively influence answers to survey questions in web and paper surveys. The result of his research has been used to develop guidelines for designing and conducting mixed-mode survey and led to the delivery of lecturers, presentations, short courses, books, and consulting on projects in more than 20 countries on five continents,” said Christopher Keane, vice president for research at WSU and vice chancellor for research at WSU Pullman. “His contributions to research and WSU have cemented his legacy as the world’s leading expert in the field, contributing to both established fundamental practice and key innovations.”

ESRA presented the Outstanding Service Award to Dillman at their biennial conference in Milan, Italy, on July 18.

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