The Survey Could Wait

The shock and waves of emotion rippling from the twin explosions at the finish of the Boston Marathon recalled another day not long ago that caused the world to halt, at least a little bit.On September 10, 2001, I was making the final edits to a statewide telephone survey. Interviewing was scheduled to be September 12. The following morning, terrorists hijacked four airplanes and all Americans were affected by the attacks on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the heroism on Flight 92.

Because of the September 11 attack, I delayed launching that phone survey for a week. In my opinion, people didn’t want to respond to survey questions. They wanted to be with family and friends.

At that time, I hoped I would never have to delay a research project due to terrorism again. But this week, I did.

By 11 a.m. Monday, April 15, I had approved three questionnaires for online and phone survey research.

By 4 p.m. that day, I had called my clients, telling them each survey would be postponed for several days because of the Boston terrorist bombing. No one hesitated. Everyone agreed.

It is not unusual to postpone a survey. Outside factors can impact how people respond. For example, we have changed research schedules due to natural disasters, power outages, stock market crashes and inflammatory, reputation-damaging news. It is appropriate to delay research projects when unexpected circumstances occur.

Delaying the projects this week was the right decision — based on solid reasoning, sound judgment and, unfortunately, experience.

Life will return to a more normal status soon.  These projects will be conducted. The information will be solid and support decision-making. But I hope I don’t have to make the same call again.