UMass Boston


The methodology and procedures of any project undertaken by the center must meet rigorous scientific standards, and the results of all projects are in the public domain. Each project at the center is overseen by a senior staff member who is responsible for both the substance of the project and the budget concerns. CSR projects have focused on areas such as health and health care, employment, education, mental health, substance use, environmental impacts, gerontology, law and criminal justice, public policy, and social service needs.

Examples of Recent or Current CSR Projects

At any point in time, CSR usually has 15 to 30 active research projects. Hence, any short list will necessarily be an incomplete set of examples. However, the current portfolio of projects includes:

Public Housing Residents

CSR is currently working with the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to survey the residents of the public housing developments managed by the Commonwealth.  Recent legislation has required DHCD to evaluate the experiences of public housing residents in over 240 different cities and towns across the state.  We are sending a one page survey that includes questions about maintenance and repair, safety, and communication with the Housing Authority and the administration at the housing development.   This 4 year project will start in the spring of 2016 and will survey about 10,000 residents each year.

Physicians’ Perceptions about Caring for Patients with Disability

In 2019-2020 CSR collaborated with the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and University of Colorado School of Medicine on a survey aimed to understand factors that contribute to health care disparities for persons with disability from the perspective of physicians practicing in seven specialties: family practice, internal medicine, neurology, obstetrics & gynecology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, and rheumatology. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. The overall response rate was 61%. CSR also co-authored several published papers based on the results of this study (see Publications).

Oncologists' Views and Practice around Therapeutic Use of Marijuana

In 2016 CSR conducted a survey in collaboration with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, and Massachusetts General Hospital to learn about the attitudes, beliefs, and practices of U.S. oncologists regarding the role of marijuana in cancer care. The study was funded by the Hans and Mavis Lopater Foundation. CSR achieved the overall response rate of 63%. CSR also co-authored several published papers (see Publications).

Physician Perceptions of Overuse of Tests and Treatments

Physician Perceptions related to overuse of medical care were the focus of a 2015 survey.  The sponsor of this project was the Lown Institute; the study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  National samples of primary care physicians (both Internal Medicine and Family Medicine) and specialists in cardiology, psychiatry, oncology and orthopedic surgery were surveyed by mail.  Questions focused on their perceptions of the kinds of medical services they thought were overused, the factors that encouraged overuse and their thoughts about alternative ways to reduce over use of medical care.  Responses were obtained from between 200 and 300 physicians in each specialty group.  Response rates overall were about 50%.  Analysis of the results is in process.

Characterizing Nonresponse Error across General Population Survey Data Collection Modes

The goal of this study is to assess the contributions of nonresponse to total survey error in two different data collection modes:  telephone and interactive voice response [IVR]. Nonrespondents in these two modes are sampled for follow-up personal interviews to gain understanding of nonresponse error and response propensities related to mode.  The project is funded by the National Science Foundation and sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Within Families Differences Study - Bereavement

The Within-Family Differences Study is a longitudinal project focused on understanding the relationship between parents and their adult children, how they get along and help one another, and the sorts of problems they face as they age.  It has followed three generations of respondents—the original respondents recruited in 2001, their children, and their adult grandchildren. CSR is working with collaborators at Purdue University on this project and it is funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging. This third wave of data collection, which began in 2020, is focused on bereavement issues.  The WFDS has produced more than 60 articles in scholarly journals and has been featured in the many newspapers, including the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and on National Public Radio.


For the past two decades CSR has worked with Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) on the Youth Health Survey (YHS), and since 2007 this work was extended into collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) on the Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). Both YHS and YRBS are biennial surveys, coordinated and conducted by CSR. The administration takes place inside classrooms within selected public schools. CSR has almost always achieved response rates well over 60% for both YHS and YRBS survey.

The YHS surveys students in Massachusetts’ public schools in grades six through twelve. The survey questions address student health issues.

The YRBS surveys students in grades nine to twelve.  The survey questions address risk behaviors (e.g., tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use, drunk driving, fighting, suicide attempts, poor dietary behaviors, physical inactivity, and sexual behaviors that result in sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy) of students in selected public schools.

Survey Assessing Consumer Preferences in Health Care

In 2015-2016, CSR collaborated with Tufts University and Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC) on the study entitled “Understanding the Value of Community Care: Can Consumer Decision-making Be a Tool for Cost Containment”.  Study was designed as an online survey that tried to understand consumers’ preferences when seeking health care. The study used an Internet panel to obtain 1,000 completed online surveys with adult Massachusetts residents. The survey instrument included the Discrete Choice Experiment portion designed to better understand how people choose between different health care options. 

CAHPS (Consumer Assessment of Health Care Providers and Systems)

This program of research, funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), was begun in 1995 to develop widely used survey instruments to gather consistent measurement of patients’ health care experiences. CSR has been part of a team based at Harvard (now at Yale) since the inception of the project, playing a central role in question evaluation and field testing activities.

Surveys of Recreational Boaters; Economic impact and mapping usage of ocean waterways

Funded by state and regional ocean planning agencies, working with the Urban Harbors Institute at UMass Boston, the center has conducted a series of innovative surveys of recreational boat owners from Maine to North Carolina, mapping the trips they take on the ocean through a combination of web surveys and geographic mapping software. The study shows how the ocean is being used recreationally and provides the basis for estimating the economic impacts of recreational boating along the East Coast. A follow-up project is surveying harbor masters about dredging that has either been done or is needed, with the goal of estimating the positive economic impacts of dredging that is done as well as the negative economic impacts of dredging that is delayed.

Measuring Decision Quality

One of the important recent developments in medicine is the growing conviction that patients should be informed and involved in making decisions about their medical care.  If that is to be a standard for quality of care, it is important to have good measures of how decisions are made.  Working with researchers at Mass General Hospital, CSR has been part of a series of studies of how best to validly and reliably measure decision quality.  A key part of the project is to assess whether questions that have been used to measure how surgical decisions are made can also be used or adapted to assess decisions about taking long-term medications or getting cancer screening.  The project has involved cognitive tests of questions and collecting data from web-based samples and patients from clinical sites about how their medical decisions of various types are being made.


Center for Survey Research

100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125