XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology, Sociology on the move, Gothenburg, Sweden, July 2010

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Research Committee on
Logic and Methodology RC33

Programme Coordinators
Jörg Blasius, RC33 President , University of Bonn, Germany, jblasius@uni-bonn.de
Katja Lozar Manfreda, RC33 Secretary, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, katja.lozar@fdv.uni-lj.si

Congress Programme


Sessions descriptions

Session 1: Social network analysis. Part I
Organizer: Anuška Ferligoj, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, anuska.ferligoj@fdv.uni-lj.si and Peter J. Carrington, University of Waterloo, Canada, pjc@uwaterloo.ca
Social network analysis is the application to sociology of the concept of the network — a set of entities, or nodes, connected by relationships, or ties. Conceptualisation of social structures as social networks has been fruitful in many areas of sociology, and has, indeed, facilitated recognition of common substantive patterns and analytic problems in diverse sub-fields of sociology and anthropology, and of similarities to problems in many other sciences. One of the most lively areas of social network analysis has been the development of suitable methods for applying the network concept in sociology. These methods address the three main issues in empirical research: sampling, measurement, and data analysis. In each of these areas, the problems faced by network researchers are considerably, though not entirely, different from those encountered by conventional attribute-based research. This session will provide a forum for presentation of new developments in research methods for social network analysis. These papers may be theoretical, concerning epistemological problems in the use of the concept of the social network; methodological, concerning technical developments in sampling, measurement, or data analysis; or empirical, demonstrating novel applications of social network analytic methods in actual research.

Session 2: Social network analysis. Part II
Organizers: Anuška Ferligoj, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, anuska.ferligoj@fdv.uni-lj.si and Vladimir Batagelj, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, vladimir.batagelj@fmf.uni-lj.si and Peter J. Carrington, University of Waterloo, Canada, pjc@uwaterloo.ca
Conceptualisation of social structures as social networks has facilitated recognition of common substantive patterns and analytic problems in diverse sub-fields of sociology and in many other sciences. One of the most lively areas of social network analysis is the development of suitable methods for large (temporal, spatial, multi-relational, multiple) networks. The problems faced by network researchers are considerably, though not entirely, different from those encountered by conventional attribute-based research.

This session will provide a forum for presentation of new developments in research methods for analysis of large social networks. The papers may be methodological - concerning developments in methods and algorithms for the analysis of large networks, or empirical - presenting novel applications of social network analytic methods in actual research dealing with large networks.

Session 3: Assessing equivalence of constructs in a cross-cultural or over time perspective
Eldad Davidov, University of Zurich, Switzerland, Davidov@soziologie.uzh.ch
Peter Schmidt, University of Gießen, and Sociology, University of Marburg, Germany, peter.schmidt@sowi.uni-giessen.de
A key concern when applying a theory and an instrument in different countries or over time is to ensure that measurement of the relevant constructs is invariant cross-nationally and/or over-time. The notion of measurement invariance refers to the question ‘whether or not, measurement operations yield measures of the same attribute’. If invariance is not tested, interpretations of between-group and between-time comparisons are problematic and may be heavily biased. Without invariance, observed differences in means or other statistics might reflect differences in biases of response across countries and time points or different understanding of the concepts, rather than substantive differences. Equally important, findings of no difference between countries and time points do not ensure the absence of “real” differences. Testing for equivalence will guarantee that estimations of change over time and differences across groups are meaningful. Different techniques have been proposed in the literature to test for equivalence of constructs. We invite presentations of studies assessing equivalence of constructs using structural equation modelling or proposing methods of doing it to ensure the data quality in a cross-cultural or over-time perspective.

Session 4: Data analysis strategies for cross-cultural research
Organizers: Michael Braun, GESIS, Mannheim, Germany, michael.braun@gesis.org and Timothy Johnson, University of Illinois, Chicago, U.S., timj@uic.edu
Ppresent innovative strategies for evaluating measurement equivalence in interculturally comparative surveys. These might include innovative research designs (e.g. MTMM designs, cross-national factorial surveys) or the application of other data-analytical strategies (e.g. multilevel modeling, correspondence analysis, multidimensional scaling) to comparative survey data.

Session 5: Why do poll go wrong… sometimes?
Organizers: Claire Durand, Université de Montréal, Canada, Claire.Durand@umontreal.ca, John Goyder, Waterloo University, Canada and Martial Foucault, Université de Montréal, Canada, martial.foucault@umontreal.ca
The aim of this session is to bring together researchers who examine methodological as well as sociological reasons that may explain why polls sometime mis-predict election outcomes.  This question has mostly been researched in electoral polls and, most of the time, for one country at a time and even one election at a time.  It has rarely been researched for other types of polls or even other information than voting intention within electoral polls.  The goal of these sessions is to present new research that aims at synthesizing possible similar features of situations where polls go wrong in order to find regularities.  Among them, features of electoral campaigns themselves but also features of sampling and methods used to collect and weight data as well as the composition of samples in terms of traditional socio-demographic markers and their relationship with behaviours, political opinions, etc.

Session 6: Experimental techniques in sociological research
Oroganizer: Stefanie Eifler, University of Bielefeld, Germany, stefanie.eifler@uni-bielefeld.de
Recently, experimental strategies have been widely employed in various areas of empirical social research. In comparison with previous research strategies, the application of experimental strategies in the analysis of attitudes and behavior constitutes a substantial broadening.
Experiments are one of the well established techniques of data collection in the field of empirical social research: Laboratory and field experiments have been carried out within the framework of social psychological studies, and in present studies, experimental designs are frequently combined with survey techniques in the analysis of attitudes, behavior and attitude-behavior-relations. Up to now, several contributions which focus on various aspects of the validity of experimental research have been presented.
Laboratory experiments have been frequently criticized for their lack of mundane realism. Starting from this criticism the introduction of hypothetical independent and dependent variables in experimental analyses was supposed to bring experiments more in line with everyday activities. However, this approach seemed to evoke normative processes and to elicit social desirability in particular. Field experiments are routed in the everyday life of actors but their internal validity seems suspicious due to difficulties regarding the control of nuisance variables by randomization, elimination and frequency matching. Factorial Surveys have been preferred to conventional assessments of attitudes and behavior. It is assumed that the factorial survey improves the reliability and the external validity of the results in general. However, only a few studies have been devoted to an empirical analysis of the assumption that the factorial survey leads to more reliable and valid measures of attitudes and behavior when compared to conventional scaling and self-report techniques.
Against the background of these considerations, the session aims at a comprehensive examination of methodological difficulties in the application of experimental strategies in various fields of empirical social research. Contributions which not only apply experimental strategies but also focus on one of the above mentioned methodological problems and criticisms are particularly requested and welcome.

Session 7: Business Meeting

Session 8: Measurement error in panel surveys
Organizers: Annette Jäckle, University of Essex, UK, aejack@essex.ac.uk and Emanuela Sala, University of Essex, UK, esala@essex.ac.uk
The importance of longitudinal data to measure social and economic change has long been recognised and more and more longitudinal surveys are being funded worldwide. Panel surveys collect data about different points in time by interviewing sample members at regular intervals. The repeated measures generated in this way can, amongst others, be used to investigate change, event histories and causal mechanisms or to control for unobserved effects using panel data methods.

Compared to longitudinal data generated from one-time retrospective life history questions, panel surveys reduce recall problems, by asking respondents about time periods close to the interview. Longitudinal data from panel surveys can nonetheless be affected by serious measurement error (ME) and responses given in different interviews are not necessarily consistent. As a result estimates from panel data may be biased.

Session 9: Issues in the teaching of research methods in the social sciences
Organizers: Barbara Kawulich, University of West Georgia, USA, bkawulic@westga.edu, Claire Wagner, University of Pretoria, South Africa and Mark Garner, University of Aberdeen, UK
Over the past several years, the session organizers have collaborated to enrich the area of teaching research methods (RM) through expanding discussions about issues that impact teaching RM. We are interested in opening up our discussion to include the views of others, to stimulate a broader discussion from a multidisciplinary perspective of problems and successes associated with the process of teaching RM.  Each of the presenters in this session will be an experienced researcher and teacher of research methods who can elaborate on various problems or issues associated with teaching RM.

Session 10: New technologies and data collection in social sciences
Organizers: Katja Lozar Manfreda, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, katja.lozar@fdv.uni-lj.si and Vasja Vehovar, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, vasja.vehovar@fdv.uni-lj.si
The permanent flow of technological advancements presents an important driving force for methodological development in social sciences. This session is seeking papers that will contribute to our understanding of how new technologies (especially Internet services and mobile technologies) are influencing the way we do quantitative and qualitative research in social sciences. Papers will show how new technologies are used for collecting data. In particular, the following areas are of special interest:

Session 11: Methodological issues in survey research
Organizer: Ken Reed, ACSPRI, Melbourne, Australia, ken.reed@acspri.org.au
Sample surveys are fundamental to sociological research. Their scope is expanding through the growth of cross-national comparative surveys and surveys that track change over time. The value of survey data depends on the development of techniques and methods to overcome the well-known limitations of survey data, to respond to persistent problems (such as declining response rates) and to address new problems (such as those arising from the application of new survey technologies).

This stream welcomes papers on methodological issues that contribute to improvements in survey research generally, and data quality in particular. Papers may be theoretical, empirical or reviews of the state-of-the art; and address any of the following topic areas:

Session 12: Analysis of social change with survey data
Organizer: Christof Wolf, GESIS, Mannheim, Germany, Christof.wolf@gesis.org  
Over the past decades social surveys have become an indispensable tool for social monitoring. Today scholars studying social change have the data of many national and international survey programs at their finger tips. The strength of surveys like the General Social Survey of the US, the ALLBUS in Germany or the British Social Attitudes Surveys of the UK is that they regularly replicate items thereby allowing analysis of social change. Another valuable data source are the different national panel studies integrated into the Cross National Equivalence File (CNEF).

The papers in this session will focus on strategies and techniques for analyzing repeated cross-sections or panel data. Papers dealing with cohort studies are especially welcome. Papers addressing a substantive research question are welcome as well as long as the research question is related to social change and the methodological aspects of the chosen study design and data analysis are reflected.

Session 13: Data quality in surveys
Organizer: Marek Fuchs, University of Darmstadt, Germany, marek.fuchs@ifs.tu-darmstadt.de
The elderly population is growing consistently across most European countries. Traditionally, the elderly are included in general population survey as long as they are living in private households. Also, some specialized surveys were conducted among older respondents in order to assess their living conditions, their health and also their psychological and social wellbeing. Usually, standard procedures derived from the literature on survey methodology are adapted for surveys in the elderly population. However, several studies have indicated that older respondents are prone to survey error to a larger degree (e.g. unit non-response, item non-response, degree of differentiation, interviewer effects). Also special problems arise during field work (coverage and sampling problems arising from retirement homes and other institutions). This session will focus on the quality of the data obtained from elderly respondents. Comparisons with younger respondents or detailed assessments of data quality within the elderly population are equally welcome.

Session 14: Transfer of socio-economic variables and of response scales in international comparable survey research
Organizers: Juergen H.P. Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik, GESIS, Mannheim, Germany, juergen.hoffmeyer-zlotnik@gesis.org and Dagmar Krebs, Institute for Sociology, University of Giessen, Germany, dagmar.krebs@sowi.uni-giessen.de
Problems in international survey research are caused by different sampling design, by different modes and by different understanding or misunderstanding of questions. The first two problems we can solve by using a random sampling procedure and the same mode. Problem three has to be subdivided into three different points: rules of translation from one language into another with the goal of a functional equivalent translation, instruments or rules of harmonizing demographic and socio-economic variables, and rules about scaling.

Session 15: Assessing the quality of data
Organizer: Jörg Blasius, Department of Political Science and Sociology, University of Bonn, Germany, jblasius@uni-bonn.de

This session will provide a series of original investigations on data quality in both national and international contexts. The starting premise is that all survey data contain a mixture of substantive and methodologically-induced variation. Most current work focuses primarily on random measurement error. Such errors are often treated as normally distributed, in some kinds of models, for example, structural equation models. However, there are a large number of different kinds of systematic measurement errors, or more precisely, there are many different sources of methodologically-induced variation and all of them may have a strong influence on the “substantive” solutions. To the sources of methodologically-induced variation belong response sets, misunderstandings of questions, translation and coding errors, uneven standards between the research institutes involved in the data collection (especially in cross-national research), item- and unit non-response, as well as faked interviews. We talk about high data quality when the methodologically-induced variation is low, i.e. the differences in responses can be interpreted based on theoretical assumptions in the given area of research. The aim of the session is to discuss different sources of methodologically-induced variation in survey research and the effects they have on the substantive findings.

Session 16: How to do research in a changing world?
Additional session on the Congress theme
Organizer: Jens Zinn, University of Melbourne, Australia, jzinn@unimelb.edu.au
Research is characterized by explicit and implicit assumptions about the constitution of society and the object/subject of research. They are the reasons why we focus on specific problems, how we seek access to and conceptualize a research problem and other decisions in the research process. They are also significant for the interpretation of results.
Fundamental social changes such as globalisation, transformation and modernisation demand new research strategies. For example common ‘methodological nationalism’ is challenged and new strategies are needed which address the link between transnational and local processes. Changes in modernisation and the concept of multiple modernities show that western modernity cannot be applied to all societies in the same way. Instead there is a need to develop new strategies for a world where former concepts, ideas and borders erode, and multiple values and concepts coexist, and new issues emerge.

Joint sessions hosted by other Research Committee, Working or Thematic Group

Session 17: Reflective modeling
Joint session of RC33 Logic and Methodology in Sociology and RC51 Sociocybernetics [host committee]

Session 18: Methodological and conceptual issues in risk
Joint sessions of RC33 Logic and Methodology in Sociology and TG04 Sociology of Risk and Uncertainty [host committee]