Since earning her Ph.D. Eleanor Singer has been an academic survey researcher, most recently at the Survey Research Center at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, where she is Research Professor Emerita.
Beginning in 1975, the focus of her work has been the empirical investigation of ethical issues in the treatment of human subjects. Starting with a study of the consequences of informed consent procedures for response rates and response quality in surveys, to which she has returned at various points in her career, she has studied the impact of concerns about privacy and confidentiality on participation in a variety of settings and in face-to-face, telephone, mail, and Web surveys. She has also examined the effect of incentives on response rates, expectations about future rewards, and behavior in future surveys, as well as the potentially “coercive” effects of using monetary rewards to induce survey participation. All of these studies have looked at actual effects–of requesting signed consent, providing information to respondents about sensitive content, giving greater or lesser assurances of confidentiality, and offering greater or lesser rewards, or none at all—in order to better inform the ethical and effective practice of survey research. In addition to her own research, she has served on or chaired various National Academypanels on privacy and confidentiality, data access, and protection of human research subjects.
After graduating from Queens College with a degree in English in 1951, she worked as an editor at various publishing houses, including Teachers College Press, and increasingly specialized in books about social science—a fact that prompted her return to graduate school at Columbia Universityin 1959. There, contact with Lazarsfeld and Merton, and in particular with her dissertation sponsor Herbert H. Hyman, introduced her to public opinion research and survey methodology, AAPOR, and Public Opinion Quarterly.
Before becoming active in AAPOR, she edited Public Opinion Quarterly from 1975-86, and was largely responsible for gaining AAPOR’s sponsorship of POQ as its official journal, a move that assured the journal’s financial stability and editorial continuity. She was President of AAPOR from 1987-8; Conference Chair from 1984-5, Standards Chair from 1995-6, and Counselor-at-large from 1985-7 and 1991-3. She received the AAPOR Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1996.