Staff: Gordon Willis, Ph.D.

Gordon Willis

Gordon Willis, Ph.D.

Program Director

Gordon Willis, Ph.D., is Cognitive Psychologist in the Tobacco Control Research Branch of the Behavioral Research Program. Prior to his work at the National Cancer Institute, he was a Senior Research Methodologist at Research Triangle Institute. He also worked for more than a decade at the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop methods for creating and testing survey questions.

Dr. Willis attended Oberlin College and received a doctorate in Cognitive Psychology from Northwestern University. He develops and evaluates surveys on cancer risk factors and focuses on questionnaire pretesting. He produced the "Questionnaire Appraisal System" for use in evaluating draft survey questions and wrote a book called "Cognitive Interviewing: A Tool for Improving Questionnaire Design." He co-teaches a graduate-level questionnaire design course at the Joint Program for Survey Methodology at the University of Maryland, and he serves as Adjunct Faculty at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS). His research interests have recently turned to cross-cultural issues in self-report surveys and research studies—in particular the development of best practices for questionnaire translation—and the development of pretesting techniques to evaluate the cross-cultural comparability of survey questions.

Dr. Willis also works in the area of human subjects protection in cancer research and has served as Chair of the NCI Special Studies Institutional Review Board (IRB). He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics and consults regularly on matters pertaining to ethical issues in population-based research.

Secondary Branch/Office Appointment:  Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch (HCIRB)

Current and/or past BRP mentees include Stephanie Fowler and Joseph Ciccolo.

Research Areas

  • Survey methods
  • Questionnaires design
  • Pretesting
  • Physician surveys
  • Human subjects protection
  • Cancer risk factor epidemiology

Selected Publications and Presentations

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