Promoting Participation in a Culture of Sustainability Web Survey

  • Heather M. Schroeder
  • Andrew L. Hupp
  • Andrew D. Piskorowski
Part of the World Sustainability Series book series (WSUSE)


The Sustainability Cultural Indicators Program (SCIP) at the University of Michigan is designed to measure and track the university’s progress (Callewaert and Marans 2017) in moving the campus community towards a culture of sustainability. SCIP gathers this data using a web survey conducted annually. Web surveys generally attain lower response rates than other modes of data collection. Web surveys are also at risk of other forms of nonresponse, such as breakoffs, which happen less frequently in other modes. Breakoffs commonly occur very early in a web survey, often on informed consent screens required by Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), before respondents have a chance to get to the survey content. There are many methods used (prenotification, incentives, etc.) to try to increase participation and reduce breakoffs. This paper investigates the efficacy of two experiments designed to increase participation and reduce breakoffs in two SCIP surveys. The first experiment examines the effect of “celebrity endorsement”. As part of the final email reminder, respondents were randomized to receive a reminder with a link to the survey or a reminder that also contained a link to a video of a head coach from the U-M Department of Athletics encouraging non-respondents to participate. The second experiment investigates informed consent screen design. One group was presented a screen appearing as a traditional informed consent form. The other group was presented a screen with the most important items visible and the rest of the information available via a series of accordion menus.


Email Paradata Sustainability survey Consent screen design Breakoff Celebrity endorsement 



The authors thank the Office of the Provost at the University of Michigan for funding the SCIP. Thanks to John Callewaert and Robert Marans for allowing the research to be conducted on the SCIP and to the reviewers for their useful suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heather M. Schroeder
    • 1
  • Andrew L. Hupp
    • 1
  • Andrew D. Piskorowski
    • 1
  1. 1.Survey Research CenterUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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