Collaborative Research: Time-Sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences (TESS): Proposal for Renewed Support, 2020-2023

Project: Research project

Project Details


Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences (TESS) is a platform for conducting social science survey experiments fielded on probability-based samples of United States adults. Established in 2001 with support from the National Science Foundation, TESS capitalizes on economies of scale to enable scholars from across the social sciences, on a competitive basis, to conduct groundbreaking research on issues of broad theoretical and practical importance. TESS enables social scientists to collect original population-based experimental data in a timely manner; promotes better understanding of fundamental social, political, and economic questions; maximizes financial efficiency by pooling expenses for otherwise separate studies; offers mentoring and educational resources; and provides an unparalleled archive of social science experimental stimuli and data that can be used for replications, re-analyses, and meta-analyses. Since its inception, TESS has provided more than 700 social, behavioral, and economic researchers with the opportunity to test a broad range of innovative hypotheses, from disciplines including sociology, psychology, political science, economics, judgment and decision making, law, public health, communication, and others.

The broader impacts of TESS are substantial. By providing a common platform for population-based experiments, TESS efficiently enables innovative scholars to identify causal dynamics that advance knowledge on topics such as discrimination, opinions about social policies, perceptions of public safety, subjective well-being, concerns about privacy, health care, voting turnout, and many more. TESS also allows for secondary analyses by guaranteeing that all raw data from experiments are made publicly available, and for replications by ensuring all experimental materials are made publicly available. It also contributes to methodological advances by fielding a number of methodology-focused experiments.

The intellectual merit of TESS is enhanced by its promotion of teaching, training, and learning at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students regularly submit proposals, many of which are funded. Even when not funded, however, students receive detailed feedback on their research at the critical design stage. Studies from TESS regularly appear on course syllabi across disciplines, and research assistants have learned about surveys and experiments by working on the project. TESS studies have been used to produce well over 200 publications, presentations, and working papers, and its archives have been the basis for widely discussed work on publication bias and comparisons between experimental samples. TESS broadens the participation of underrepresented groups, both as investigators and research participants. At the heart of TESS’s mission is the democratization of access to high quality, original experimental data, thereby putting the power of population-based experiments in the hands of researchers from all backgrounds, all academic institutions, and all career stages. Because the TESS data collection platform involves a representative sample, the results of TESS projects reflect the broad diversity of the US. The data collection platform also enables investigators to oversample respondents from otherwise underrepresented groups.

The proposed project will continue and build on TESS’s success to date. TESS will be taking steps to better exploit its archive, continuing its Young Investigator Competition and mechanism for allowing brief studies, and debuting special competitions for targeted popula
Effective start/end date9/1/208/31/23


  • National Science Foundation (NOT SPECIFIED)

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