If you attended the last Web Coordinators meeting, you’ve already heard a bit about using OMB's fast track process for your surveys and usability tests. And now we've also updated the Communication Standards page about surveys with information about when you need approval and how to get it when you do.

Basically, if you ever collect information from more than nine members of the public—whether it's a survey or a usability test—you need to get approval from OMB to run that test. Most surveys on EERE should quality for fast track approval as long as:

  • The data collection is focused on improving existing or future services, products, or communication materials;
  • The data collection is voluntary;
  • Statistical rigor is not required;
  • The burden on participants is not high; and
  • You won't distribute the results publicly.

Surveys that don't meet this requirement must go through a different process to get approval.

But when you're planning a survey or a study, remember to be aware of Personally Identifiable Information, too. PII, as it's called, has to be treated in a special way and stored on a secure server. You should always try to minimize the amount of PII you collect, and you should certainly never ask for information you don't actually need for your analysis.

If you have questions about PII, ask Drew Bittner. If you have questions about surveys and the OMB approval process, you can ask Wendy Littman.

And, as always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this update or the Communication Standards website, feel free to leave them in the comments or contact me through the Communication Standards webmaster!