Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

ACCI Memorial Paper: The Scholarly Legacy of E. Scott Maynes

Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

ACCI Memorial Paper: The Scholarly Legacy of E. Scott Maynes

Article excerpt

This paper honors E. Scott Maynes, who died on June 24, 2007 and had been a professor emeritus in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University. The paper describes Scott's scholarly legacy in research, highlighting four areas: survey research methods, research using data from Surveys of Consumer Finances, Scott's studies of local consumer markets, and two significant books Scott Maynes authored. The author of this memorial paper concludes that Scott's scholarly legacy is neither a new theory nor a new statistical technique but the importance of vision, passion, perseverance, commitment, and creativity for the applied social science researcher.

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It is an honor to have the opportunity to write the first American Council on Consumer Interests Memorial Paper. This honor is especially significant because the focus of this paper is E. Scott Maynes, an individual who played a significant role in my life.

Writing this paper was a challenge. How does one summarize the scholarly career of an applied social scientist 60 years after its beginning? Scott's scholarly contributions must be set in the milieu in which they were made since issues or problems significant 40, 50, or 60 years ago may not seem significant today. Scott's scholarly career began when the Survey of Consumer Finances was in its infancy and "IBM computing machines" were beginning to be used for data analysis. The tremendous changes occurring over Scott's scholarly career are only magnified by the fact that this paper is being written nearly 20 years after he retired.

Scholarly contributions are more than published research. They are also embodied in the students with whom a scholar interacts. Scott stirred an intellectual curiosity within students which profoundly affected their careers whether in the academy, in government, or in business. He reached out to both undergraduate and graduate students, and it made no difference whether he was a student's major professor, was on a student's committee, had a student in class, or had passing conversations with a student in a corridor.

Scott also stirred intellectual curiosity within his colleagues. Whether it was reviewing a paper, informal interaction at a conference, or comments made at a scholarly presentation, Scott motivated colleagues to examine a problem more deeply, to pursue an interesting issue, and to carefully examine explicit and implicit assumptions.

Scott's scholarly contributions are also manifested in his work with consumer product testing organizations. He considered issues related to the assessment of product quality and the impact of consumer product testing organizations on consumer decision making. While his time on the Consumers Union Board of Directors was the focal point of this service, Scott also interacted with Consumers' Association (United Kingdom) and Stiftung Warentest (Germany). (1)

Although the importance of Scott's scholarly legacy as reflected through students, colleagues, and service contributions should not be minimized, this paper focuses on Scott's research scholarship. Four areas of Scott's scholarship are examined: survey research methods, research using data from Surveys of Consumer Finances, the study of local consumer markets, and two significant books.

SURVEY RESEARCH METHODS

The first Survey of Consumer Finances was conducted in 1946, three years before Scott joined the staff of the Survey Research Center in the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. This was also the time when he began his PhD studies. This was an era when large-scale surveys were emerging and scholars were raising concerns related to the accuracy of survey data.

Chapter 4 of Scott's PhD dissertation was an overview of methodological issues faced by applied social scientists using survey research data in the mid-1950s (Maynes 1955). He identified five issues: (1) whether the universe of the survey included the appropriate set of economic actors, (2) whether survey data reflected theoretically correct constructs, (3) whether sampling errors were an issue, (4)whether nonresponse errors were a problem, and (5)whether response errors were a concern. …

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