Janet Harkness, Director of the Gallup Research Center and a leading figure in the development of cross-cultural research methods, died on Monday in Germany at the age of 63.
Harkness graduated with an MA in Comparative Mediaeval Studies from Edinburgh University in 1969 and gained a PhD with a focus on semantics at Freiburg University in Germany in 1985.
Most recently, she was Director of the Survey Research and Methodology graduate program and Gallup Research Center, and holder of the Donald and Shirley Clifton Chair in Survey Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
She also founded and served as Chair of the Organizing Committee on the International Workshop on Comparative Survey Design and Implementation (CSDI).
Harkness worked extensively on advisory boards and industry committees helping to improve survey methodology across regions and cultures. She served as Head of the International Social Survey Programme’s Methodology Committee (1997-2008); as a Board member of the National Science Foundation’s (USA) Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences Advisory Board (2008-present); Board member of the Deutsches Jugendinstitut Advisory Board (2009-present); co-initiator of the Cross-Cultural Survey Guidelines Initiative; Chair of the Organizing Committee for the International Conference on Survey Methods in Multicultural, Multinational and Multiregional Contexts (3MC, Berlin 2008); and as a member of the European Social Survey’s (ESS) central co-ordinating team.
In 2006, she was named a Descartes laureate by the European Union for her work on the European Social Survey, for which she developed translation guidelines and specifications. She had also been a member of WAPOR since 2009.
During her career, Harkness published several volumes on the business of translating and assessing survey questions and on designing questionnaires so that they can be used with multiple populations and languages. These works included iCross-Cultural Survey Equivalence, Cross-Cultural Survey Methods (with F.J.R. Van de Vijver and P. Ph. Mohler), and Survey Methods in Multicultural, Multinational, and Multiregional Contexts (with M. Braun, B. Edwards, T.P. Johnson, L.F Lyberg, P. PH. Mohler, B. Pennell and T.W. Smith).
Her research also focused on the use of interpreters and bilingual interviewers in surveys and the challenges faced by participants.
Her colleague, Don Dillman, Regents Professor at Washington State University, noted: ‘I don’t know of anyone who has done as much thinking as she has about cross-cultural surveys, and how measurement differs across languages and countries.’
Harkness is survived by her husband Peter Mohler.