The GESIS – Leibniz Institute for Social Sciences is Germany’s largest social sciences infrastructure facility. With over 250 employees in Mannheim, Cologne, and Berlin, GESIS delivers internationally recognised research-based services. In 2013, GESIS looked to make research much easier for social scientists – through a panel that allow them to access a representative sample of the population. The challenge was to ensure that the panel was easy and fast to use, meet the highest academic, methodological and technical standards and should provide social scientists of all types with valid research data.
Together with Questback, GESIS developed a mixed-mode panel infrastructure, combining online and physical surveys, based on Questback’s Enterprise Feedback Suite (EFS). Scientists are now able to use it to easily generate demographically representative data on the opinions, attitudes and behavior of German-speaking residents between 18 and 70 who live permanently in the country. It also has an additional key benefit for scientists – it is free to use the platform and access the survey data that it creates. When developing the panel, GESIS and Questback had to combine the needs of two distinct target audiences. It had to meet the rigorous scientific, methodological and technology requirements of primary and secondary researchers, at the same time, panelists wanted it to be quick and easy to participate in surveys whilst keeping the highest levels of data security and anonymity.
The project has created a completely new way for academic researchers to survey a representative sample of the German population. Scientists are benefiting both from the panel’s free usage model, and its speed and efficiency. So far 46 studies have been run through the tool. Previously scientists would have had to build their own demographically representative panel – which would have been time-consuming and expensive. Essentially, many of these projects would not have been possible without the GESIS Panel.
Building on this success, the GESIS Panel will be extended across Europe in the future. Initially it will be used for international omnibus studies, with a harmonised European panel infrastructure then planned, This will collect data from multiple European countries, allowing scientists to carry out culturally comprehensive social research.
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