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American Association for Public Opinion Research

Membership and Chapter Relations Q&A with Dr. Jaki McCarthy

by Morgan Earp, MCR Associate Chair
Jaki McCarthy is a senior survey methodologist in the Methodology Division at the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.  She has worked in a number of areas including questionnaire development and testing, data quality evaluation and research, data collection methods, survey participation and nonresponse.  But with an academic background in psychology, she is most interested in the impact of people on surveys and statistics.
Why do you encourage early career folks in government to join AAPOR?
When you first start your career, it’s easy to feel like you are on your own, especially if you work in a place where there are few (or no) other people doing work similar to you.  This is often true for survey methodologists, who may work primarily with statisticians and subject matter experts.  Joining AAPOR gives you access to a community of similar professionals.  Even if you don’t often directly interact with other AAPOR members, I think knowing they are there as a resource can give early career professionals more confidence.  AAPOR members are incredibly welcoming and approachable, whether individually, at seminars or events, through the AAPORnet listserv or at the annual conference.  It’s a great group for top quality professional advice or just a sympathetic ear for common problems.  It might take you a career to meet all these people on your own, AAPOR is an unbeatable resource for those just starting out.
What do you see as the benefits of being a member (specifically for early career folks in government)?

For early career government employees, membership can provide opportunities for professional development and networking.  Many issues and problems you encounter in one government agency are the same at others, so knowing other people working on similar things elsewhere can be very useful.  DCAAPOR, the local chapter for many government employees in the Washington DC area, has many great events during the year.  You can learn a lot at the various talks and seminars, but importantly, socializing with your counterparts at other agencies is priceless.  DCAAPORites know how to have fun!  Beyond professional colleagues, I have many friends I met early in my career through AAPOR – people that I actually hang out with when we are not talking about surveys and statistics.  Survey methodologists can actually be cool people outside of work!