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JGSS project

Purpose of JGSS Project

The JGSS (Japanese General Social Surveys) Project conducts repeated social surveys to study the attitudes and behavior of Japanese people comprehensively, and aims to promote a variety of academic research by making the data available to those interested in secondary use. Topics surveyed are diverse employment and financial situation, family structure, leisure activities, crime victimization, political consciousness, family customs, and views on life and death --- and survey data have been gathered that can provide answers to a variety of issues. Many survey data have been made available since the start of the project, and these have been very useful in a broad range of research and educational settings.

In 1999, Institute of Regional Studies, the Osaka University of Commerce (the agency conducting the project) was designated as a "key institute on the frontiers of academic projects" by the then the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), recognizing it as an excellent research organization expected to grow in the future, and has received support for project promotion. The research institution was re-organized into the JGSS Research Center when it was accredit as “Joint Usage / Research Center for Japanese General Social Surveys” by MEXT in October 2008 (again in April 2013). The project had been financially supported by the MEXT (Program for Promotion of Distinctive Joint Research Centers) from June 2008 to March 2013. The Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo has acted as a major partner since the establishment of the project, and had corporation agreement with the JGSS Research Center from December 2008 to March 2013.

Noriko Iwai (Professor of Osaka University of Commerce) serves as the Principal Investigator, and JGSS office is located at Osaka University of Commerce. Project members vary somewhat from year to year, but an abundance of researchers specializing in sociology, social psychology, economics, education, statistics, population studies, and other disciplines from public and private research agencies have participated.

The most significant characteristic of the project is public sharing of survey data as a resource for further research. The General Social Survey (GSS) in the United States is a famous social survey that has this characteristic, and served as a model for the JGSS. The GSS is a general social survey that has been conducted repeatedly by National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago since 1972, and to date, over 55,000 respondents participated in the survey. Over 5,500 variables (survey items) have been amassed, and the number of publications analyzing or referencing the GSS data has climbed to more than 20,000. Surveys similar to the GSS are conducted in Ireland, Britain, Australia, Canada, Germany, Taiwan, Korea, China and other countries, and the JGSS represents the Japanese version.

Although the data accumulated by the JGSS are still few compared to the GSS, it has nevertheless received the cooperation from about 35,000 respondents over the nine surveys conducted up to 2012, and has built up a large-scale survey data set with over 2,000 variables. The JGSS 2000-2010 Cumulative Dataset has more than 2,200 variables, of which 868 variables have collected twice or more and 169 variables are collected 8 times. JGSS datasets are deposited to data archives including SSJDA (Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo), ICPSR (University of Michigan), and GESIS (German Social Science Infrastructure Services). Total number of data usage through ICPSR exceeds 29,000, and that through SSJDA exceeds 16,000. The number of data users is increasing year by year, and data users are from various institutions inside (in Japanese) and outside Japan.

Results obtained from research using public data have been reported by the Japan Sociological Society, the Japanese Society of Social Psychology, the Japanese Association of Sociological Criminology, the Japan Society of Family Sociology, the Population Association of Japan, the American Sociological Association, the International Institute of Sociology, the International Interdisciplinary Congress on Women, International Sociological Association, and other academic institutions. The JGSS has now become a representative of social survey in Japan.

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Growth of the JGSS Project

Up to now the JGSS project has been evaluated highly, and was awarded the Statistical Activity Encouraging Award by the Japan Statistical Association. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology had determined the span of the project to be five years (from 1999 to 2003), but due to the project's great successes, it was continued in a second phase from 2004 to 2008. The project is currently in this phase.

Research on Survey Methods
To investigate problems with survey items and methodology, the JGSS project conducted two pilot surveys upon its launch in 1999. Thereafter as well, problems with survey methods have been investigated with small scale pretests. Also, information of cases in which subjects didn’t agree to cooperate on the survey is gathered and is made use of to increase response rates in future surveys. In this manner, efforts are taken in the project to investigate methodological issues.

Call for Research/Analytical Issues
Since the 2005 survey, the JGSS project has called for survey questions from researchers and graduate students in and outside of Japan. In addition, it has been publicly calling for research issues (for participation in our survey from the design stage) and analytical issues (for participation in our survey from the analysis stage). The intention is to accept ideas from researchers (especially young ones) who have good ideas but had not previously been given an opportunity to participate in a nation-wide survey, and to enhance further the JGSS questionnaire through participation from these researchers.

Paper Competition
Every year since 2003, the JGSS project has called for academic papers that used JGSS data, and has given recognition to excellent ones. This project aims to highlight distinguished studies, in addition to encouraging use of the public data. As of 2013, 23 papers were given recognition.

Encouraging Young Researchers
Since JGSS has conducted surveys repeatedly in a short period of time, it provides many opportunities for young researchers to experience actual nation-wide surveys. Therefore, the JGSS project strives to develop young researchers actively by calling for questions and papers etc. In 2005 this endeavor was institutionalized as the “JGSS Researcher Encouraging Program,” and has enhanced the development of young researchers. As of April 2013, 21 graduate students finished this program, and there are currently two graduate students under this program. Also, post-doctoral fellows have been taken on since 2005, and have participated with associate investigators in the course of processes that include survey planning and designing, implementation, data analysis, and writing papers, thereby polishing the necessary skills and knowledge for conducting national and cross-national surveys. Currently, there are one research fellow and one post-doctoral fellow.

Strengthening Protection of Personal Data
From the beginning of the JGSS project, close attention has been paid to protecting personal information. For example, when the data are released, references to places of residence are removed, the orders of cases are randomized, and other means are taken so that individuals or families can in no way be identified. Attention to this matter has been further increased with the enactment of the personal information protection law of April 2005. We are making further study of sampling and recruiting methods that enable social surveys to be compatible with the goals of protection of personal information.

Creating a Cumulative Data Set
Since JGSS has conducted surveys repeatedly, it allows for time-series analyses. To promote such analyses, a highly useful “JGSS Cumulative Data 2000-2003” was released which enabled to analyze the survey data from the first phase (JGSS-2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003) collectively.

Remote Analysis on the Web
The SSJ Data Archive to which JGSS data is deposited introduced a remote analysis system in October of 2005 allowing users to easily analyze data sets on the Web. The JGSS data is one of such data sets. Researchers and students affiliated with universities can use the simple tabulation, correlation, cross tabulation, and t-test programs online to analyze the JGSS data. The remote analysis has been effectively used particularly in education.

Social Network Survey
In the survey conducted in 2003 (JGSS-2003), total sample were divided into two. Subjects in the first half of the sample were given questionnaires that had strong continuity and similarity with previous surveys, and the rest of the subjects were given social network questionnaires that made detailed questions into the degree and substance of subjects’ exchanges with other people. This social network survey is extremely valuable in its own right, and publishing the survey data has been very useful for many researchers.

Encouraging International Use
At first JGSS data had been only available in Japanese, but the data and survey materials were translated into English in order to satisfy the need for international access. Presently the Japanese and English versions of the data are released simultaneously. Initially, there was only one data archive to which JGSS data was deposited, but now the data is also being made available through American and German data archives (ICPSR: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research and GESIS: German Social Science Infrastructure Services). The total number of data utilized through ICPSR up to April 2013 exceeds 16,000.

Cross-National Survey in East Asia
From the 2006 survey, the JGSS project participated in the EASS (East Asian Social Survey), a cross-national survey conducted in several countries and regions in East Asia. The EASS project endeavors to enable international comparisons by incorporating a set of common question modules into the repeated surveys of each participating country and region.

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