Is the Foothills Forum confidential? 

How can you assure me if I take this darn survey of yours my answers will be confidential?

Can’t you just look at my address and know who I am and what my answers are?

It won’t surprise anyone who’s lived in Rappahannock County — been here or come here — that we’ve heard all of the questions above, and then some. We heard it following an initial post on RappNet. We heard it selling apple butter with the Lions outside of Quicke Mart. And our academic partners in Charlottesville got calls from Rappahannock citizens, grilling them on the topics of confidentiality, survey science and data integrity.

The caution’s appropriate.

We’ve expanded the section of our website with Frequently Asked Questions about the Foothills Forum Survey, addressing all of the above.

Here, then, are the Q’s and the A’s on why you can trust this survey:

Tell me more about the Center for Survey Research and why we can trust them.

The Center for Survey Research (CSR) at the University of Virginia specializes in studies for local government, state agencies and nonprofits. The Center offers customized project design, report preparation, and data collection and analysis. CSR is a charter member of AASRO, the Association of Academic Survey Research Organizations. Senior staffers are members of AAPOR – the American Society of Public Opinion Research.

Who are the people at CSR working with Foothills Forum?

CSR is led by Dr. Thomas M. Guterbock, its founding director and senior project manager. Dr. Guterbock is also Professor of Sociology, and Research Professor of Public Health Sciences at the university, where he teaches survey research methods at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Dr. Kathryn F. Wood is project director for this survey. Dr. Wood earned both her M.A. and Ph.D. at UVA and studied research methods at Columbia University. She is an instructor in the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies Program at UVA, where she teaches courses in both sociology and history. She conducted the pretest session in Rappahannock County this fall with a dozen of our local citizens filling out the survey and offering feedback on the questions and topics. That feedback was incorporated into the final survey.

Matthew Braswell, M.A., senior research analyst at the Center for Survey Research, expects to receive his Ph.D. in May 2016.

How do I know my responses are confidential?

The Center for Survey Research has a long history of managing confidential surveys. In order to keep track of survey response, each mailing has a number associated with it. However, no names or addresses appear on the questionnaire. The computer file that links questionnaire numbers to personal information is kept on a secure server and is separated from responses to the questionnaire. All results of the survey will be reported only in the aggregate, so it will never be possible to identify any respondent. The protocol for the survey and its confidentiality has approved by the UVA Institutional Review Board for the Social Sciences.

What happens to the surveys once everything’s complete? How are they disposed?

When the project is complete, the returned questionnaires will be destroyed. The data will be stored on the Center for Survey Research’s password-protected server.