U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
EERE Communication Standards & Guidelines
Surveys can be a useful way to gauge the opinions of your readers and learn more about your website's audiences, but you'll often need approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to run one.
Developing a Survey
When designing your survey, you should know where it will be hosted, approximately how many people you would like to take it, and what your questions will be.
If you are conducting a survey to learn more about your website users, their top tasks, and how they feel about your website, please contact Wendy Littman for a list of sample questions that have received OMB approval in the past.
Personally Identifiable Information
Before you create your questions, you should know what Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is and whether your survey is asking for it. You can collect low-risk PII, such as a respondent's email, phone number, or address. You should only collect PII that you know you need for analysis. Any PII you collect must be stored on a DOE server that has been certified and accredited.
If you have questions about DOE's rules for PII collection and storage, please contact the EERE Web Project Manager, Drew Bittner.
Getting Approval for your Survey
All surveys need approval from the Web Governance Team. Some will need to apply to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval.
The Web Governance Team
All surveys should be submitted to the Web Governance Team (WGT). Schedule a meeting once your questions are complete and before you code your survey.
The Office of Management and Budget
OMB approval is necessary for surveys or usability tests that collect information from 10 or more respondents from the general public. All publicly available online surveys require OMB approval. OMB approval is not required if surveys are conducted internally among federal staff. Government contractors are not considered federal staff members.
If you don't know whether your survey requires OMB approval or not, contact Wendy Littman before you begin work on your survey.
Most surveys run on EERE can use the fast track system. Surveys that don't meet the list of requirements for the fast track system must apply for standard OMB approval.
The Fast Track System
Most EERE surveys get OMB approval through DOE's survey fast track system. Your survey is eligible for the fast track process if:
- The data collection is focused on improving existing or future services, products, or communication materials;
- The data collection is voluntary;
- Statistical rigor is not required;
- The burden on participants is not high; and
- You won't distribute the results publicly.
If you want to submit your survey for fast track approval, follow these steps:
Send a final copy of your survey to your office's Web Coordinator. Explain that you are submitting the survey to OMB.
Contact Wendy Littman for the necessary forms and examples of surveys that have been approved by OMB in the past.
Submit the form and your survey materials to Chris Rouleau and Wendy Littman who may recommend changes before she submits to OMB.
OMB has 5 business days to respond. If they have a question or require more information, they will contact you in this time.
- If OMB inquires within those 5 days, they have an additional 5 days to respond after you send them your response.
- If no response is received in 5 days, the survey is assumed approved on the 6th day and you may begin your survey.
Standard OMB Approval
If your survey isn't eligible for the Fast Track system, you will need to go through a more detailed submission process. OMB can take more than 60 days to approve your survey after it has been submitted.
If you need to go through this process, contact Wendy Littman. She will walk you through the process.
Building Your Survey
Once you have gotten approval to run your survey, you will need to build it.
There are a variety of survey collection tools available. EERE typically uses Survey Gizmo, which collects and aggregates the data for you automatically. It also offers features for analyzing the data, including the ability to run custom reports, cross reference questions, create charts, and combine data sets. Learn more about Survey Gizmo's features and how to use it on your site.
Contact Wendy Littman if you'd like to have your survey built in Survey Gizmo. You will be provided access to the tool to edit your questions and run reports after the data is collected.
More information is available about surveys and OMB approval on other federal sites: