Collaborative Research: Time-Sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences (TESS): Proposal for Renewed Support, 2016-2019

Project: Research project

Project Details


Project Summary
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. First 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. As documented here, TESS succeeds in enabling many social scientists to collect original population based experimental data in a timely manner; promoting better understanding of fundamental social, political and economic questions; maximizing financial efficiency by pooling expenses for otherwise separate studies; and providing mentoring and educational resources.
Since its inception, TESS has provided more than 450 social, behavioral, and economic researchers with the opportunity to conduct original experiments, testing a broad range of innovative hypotheses. Proposals are solicited on a continuous basis, undergo rigorous peer review, and involve Internet-based data collection with a representative national sample. There is an enormous gain in efficiency because costs of sampling, data collection, and data management are distributed across studies, and because TESS commits to fielding a large number of survey experiments with its vendor rather than each investigator having to pursue pricing agreements on their own.
To date, TESS has conducted over 350 population-based experiments across 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, investment behavior, health care, judicial legitimacy, voting turnout, trust, and many more topics. TESS also allows secondary analyses by guaranteeing that all raw data from experiments are made publicly available, and it contributes to methodological advances by doing a number of methodology experiments among the studies it fields.
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 occur on course syllabi across disciplines, and research assistants have learned about surveys and experiments by working on the project. TESS has been featured in a book length treatment of population-based survey experiments (Mutz 2011) and a recent widely discussed Science article on publication bias (Franco et al. 2014).
TESS broadens the participation of underrepresented groups, both as investigators and research participants. At the heart of TESS’ 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 f
Effective start/end date9/1/168/31/21


  • National Science Foundation (SES-1628057)


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