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AAPOR
The leading association
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American Association for Public Opinion Research

AAPOR Profile: Ting Yan

by Alian Kasabian
Rene_Bautista-Large.jpgTing Yan is an associate director for statistics and evaluation sciences, and senior survey methodologist at Westat, where she has been for over six years. As part of her work there, she is also an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan’s Survey Methodology Program and the Joint Program in Survey Methodology at the University of Maryland. Prior to working at Westat, Ting was a senior survey methodologist at NORC.

Ting ended her term as editor in chief for the survey methodology side of the Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology in 2020. She really enjoyed being on the frontier of new research, and misses the excitement, but appreciates having more time for her own research. While she wishes she wrote more, she has authored or coauthored over 60 peer-reviewed articles in the last 15 years, with ten times as many citations—nine articles in 2020 alone. As a researcher, it is exciting to see her publications have an impact for survey practitioners and increase visibility for the field.

I asked about her writing process, and she said, “Being persistent. I think nowadays we just have so many obligations, no matter what our job titles are, our days can go so quickly. We just have to be very disciplined in delegating certain time for putting things on paper.” Besides scheduling time daily for writing, she also keeps a list of all the papers in progress and what stage they are in on a whiteboard in her office to help remind her what needs to be done. Ting has had several repeat collaborators over the years. She said it is the common interest that drives the projects, and getting feedback and being able to bounce ideas off one another is really helpful.  When asked about successful writing partnerships, she said having accountable partners helps it stay on track.

Ting was part of the first Diversity Subcommittee of AAPOR’s Membership and Chapter Relations Committee, and she said she is most proud of that work and their efforts to promote diversity within AAPOR. She first started thinking about diversity because of her identity as an Asian woman, and also being from China. In China, concepts of race and ethnic identity are different than in the U.S., which has an impact on measurement error for those questions. “I started to learn more about conversational rules and how culture impacts you, and really just help people understand the survey response process. And I think that really still pushes me to think more about what we can do to make the instruments better. There will always be measurement error, but what can we do to reduce that. I think that is still a theme in my research.”

Since joining AAPOR in 2004, Ting has served in a variety of support roles. One of her favorites was serving on the Conference Abstract Review Committee—seeing abstracts and putting them into sessions was very satisfying. An ongoing problem, though, is the growth of the number of concurrent sessions, and she would like to see fewer sessions, perhaps by offering sessions across more days. “It becomes a little bit overwhelming.” Ting thinks AAPOR does well with new members and is more supportive of student work than many other organizations, and she thinks that is what keeps people coming back. Unfortunately, the cost to attend the conference is usually prohibitive for a lot of international researchers. Ting hopes we can consider a way to include remote sessions when it is safe to gather again to increase involvement for those who cannot attend, whatever the reason.

As a final note, Ting encourages people to get out of their comfort zone and be more involved in AAPOR. “It’s a great community…and I’d like to see other people have the benefit of being a member.”