I love SurveyMonkey…survey creation, distribution, and data collection is a snap with this service (and it’s super cheap). What could possibly be bad about making surveys so accessible to everyone? Oh, yeah…it’s probably making surveys so accessible to everyone. Surveys used to represent a significant time and financial investment (e.g., postage, envelop stuffing, data entry). Now all you need is a list of emails. Without previous barriers, the decision to survey can come a little too quickly.

Admittedly, I’ve done too many surveys simply because it was easy…rather than necessary. Now I’m afraid that all this ease is actually making surveying harder than ever. There are only so many physicians, and if we’re all bombing their inboxes with survey invitations, what’s the difference between us and cheap Viagra spam?

In his recent JCEHP editorial, Dr. Olson eloquently describes this concern:
“…a survey population is a commons, a resource that is shared by a community, and like other commons such as ocean fisheries or antibiotics, it can be degraded by overuse” (p. 94)

Dr. Olson goes on to detail five ways in which we most typically misuse this common resource – which are much easier to address than climate change. I highly recommend reading this editorial.  Afterward, continue to “reduce, reuse, recycle” and add: resist.

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