A Social Scientist’s Exercise in Gratitude – 12, 38, 400, 820, and 1.9 million

by | Apr 27, 2016 | Social Science Business

In the Summer of 2004, I set out to carve a new path.  I knew that I didn’t enjoy market research (or being a social scientist within a market research firm).  I missed academic social science research, but I wasn’t keen on returning to a purely academic environment.  I took a leap of faith and quit my job with no plan.  With two young kids, I would test out being a “full-time dad” for awhile, as I explored what options I had.  I suspect I knew inside that I needed the urgency of not having a job to help me decide what was next.

I am grateful that I found the guts to do that.  I hadn’t realized it at the time, but social science survey research is a relationship business.  People rely on the work of the social scientist to make their own careers.  And when you do good work, you get loyalty in return.  I had unknowingly been putting away nickels and dimes into relationships – and those relationships began to call.

On August 27, 2004, I agreed to my first paying contract for services under the name Survey Sciences Group, LLC.  By November of that year, I had more work than I could do alone – resulting in my first two employees being hired in January 2015, the same day we moved out of my home and into office space in downtown Ann Arbor.

A Social Scientist’s Gratitude… in numbers

Today, I had a moment to reflect back on the relationships that we have built. I am grateful for them all. The good and the bad. I am the first to say that not every relationship continues today.  I made several mistakes that caused relationships to crumble. But I learned from those. I promise to share some of those experiences someday in this blog.

I wanted to take a moment to quantify what we have done – it is one small measure of my gratitude today:

Nearly 12 Years…

…of collaborations involving the Survey Sciences Group, LLC / SoundRocket, some of which we have carried longer through previous employers.  I am grateful for each and every year – as a year has not gone by without a wonderful lesson learned.

38 Employees…

…have worked with us over this time in permanent part- and full-time roles.  I remain amazed that people will come to work at a small business, knowing that they are more turbulent and more risky than a career as a social scientist in a large academic center – and they even stay after their first day!  I am grateful for what they have and are contributing every day!

400+ Customer Organizations…

…with whom we have collaborated.  Check out the full list here.  While this number spans the breadth of our reach, it falls short of showing the depth we have gone within those organizations listed.  I am grateful for the trust that each one of these organizations has given us!

820+ Web-based Surveys…

…fielded.  From small (1 question) to hugely complex (over 2,000 variables captured), and everything in between, this number is likely low as it does not include surveys conducted on our secondary data collection systems.  I am grateful for the core tool of our field – the survey – and the scientific inquiry that it helps support!

1,900,000+ Survey Responses…

…received.  This number floors me, as behind this number is an even larger number of those who have been invited to participate.  But I do not share that number, as I do not intend to celebrate nonresponse in this post.  😉 This comes down to over 450 survey responses per day! I am grateful to every survey participant for trusting us to collect their responses and for their contribution to the science!

Currently, the FDA only regulates true direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic tests, which have no health care provider involved either before or after testing. Consumer-initiated, physician-mediated genetic tests are considered lab developed tests (LDTs), which currently do not require FDA oversight. 


Our Study Design

Our study was designed to simulate the experience of an everyday person who is considering doing a health-related genetic test. For this reason, we only reviewed website contents presented to a consumer before ordering a test. By limiting our data collection to pre-test content, instead of digging around or contacting the companies to fill in missing data points, gaps in public-facing information that consumers use to make ‘informed’ decisions were revealed.  

Also, while a genetic counselor supervised the project, a research assistant (RA) conducted most of the website investigations. The RA was familiar enough with genetics and genetic testing to understand and identify the information presented on the websites, but has not had the clinical exposure that might create bias from knowing how specific tests work “behind-the-scenes”. 


To Sum Up

We set out to understand the landscape of health-related consumer genomics testing from the public perspective. By limiting our research (by design) to public-facing pre-test website content, we could not complete our data collection as set out in the protocol. However, this uncovered an important observation: consumer genomics websites are highly variable in content, readability and ease of use. 

This begs the question, if we can’t find basic test information on a consumer genomics website, how does a consumer have enough information to make an informed choice about testing? 

Stay tuned for Part 2 in this series, where we will dig into our study findings and reveal our most interesting observations.  



As experts in FDA user comprehension studies for consumer genomics companies seeking 510(k) clearance, we are interested in how everyday people access and understand health content that is meant for them. If you need help optimizing your consumer-directed health communications, we’ve got the in-house expertise and experience to meet your needs. Let’s chat

About the Author

Scott D. Crawford

Scott D. Crawford is the Founder and Chief Vision Officer at SoundRocket. He is also often found practicing being a husband, father, entrepreneur, forever-learner, survey methodologist, science writer & advocate, and podcast lover. While he doesn’t believe in reincarnation, he’s certain he was a Great Dane (of the canine type) in a previous life.