Quality criteria for survey research - DFG presents memorandum

July 21, 1999

Two years ago the DFG's Executive Board appointed a working group consisting of social scientists from universities and non-university research institutions, users of survey results and leading representatives of private sector market and public opinion research institutes; under the chairmanship of Professor Max Kaase of the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (Social Science Research Centre Berlin) they discussed and agreed on the criteria to be complied with for surveys to be considered scientific.

Empirical social research looks at the interactions between individuals and families, institutions, communities and states as well as their living conditions, views and values. In the form of survey research it has spread rapidly due to the dissemination of and fundamental changes in communication technologies. In addition, the increasing number of households having access to electronic networks will provide another thrust for developing methods for survey research and hence raise new questions. It is in particular the growing number of telephone interviews and the possibilities of electronic data processing which have led to questions about the quality, scope and viability of the information collected.

The memorandum describes and evaluates potential consequences of these developments, but does not focus on technological changes alone. Surveys play a major role in launching new products and they also contribute substantially to the legislative decision-making process as well as to the way in which governments and political parties formulate their objectives and hence to the public opinion-forming process. As a result the quality of survey results and their public presentation can no longer remain a matter to be dealt with by the science system alone.

This is why the memorandum is addressed to scientists at universities and comparable institutions - calling for improved university training in empirical social research - and to market and public opinion research institutes as well as to business enterprises, journalists and a large number of interest groups. Apart from dealing with practical issues relating to the pros and cons of different types of surveys, to the design of questionnaires, to interviewers and sampling, the memorandum draws an international comparison, looks at the harmonisation efforts in European statistics, the issue of freedom of research and data protection and the problems involved in archiving survey data. Since data archives today provide sophisticated information on the views and behaviour of the population over time, it is necessary to be aware of the risk of methodological bias and try to control it.

The authors also point out that in view of the attraction and hence the growing dissemination by the mass media - especially television - of the information gained through surveys as well as of the effect of these results on the public at large it is indispensable to establish and enforce quality standards also for the coverage of survey research results.
-end-
For further information please apply to Professor Max Kaase, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung, telephone 49-30-25491-293/589, fax 49-30-25491-318

Members of the working group

Hans Bertram, Professor of Sociology, Humboldt University Berlin Jürgen Chlumsky, Director of the Institut für Forschung und Entwicklung in der Bundesstatistik des Statistischen Bundesamtes (Institute for Research and Development in Federal Statistics of the Federal Statistical Office), Wiesbaden (permanent guest of the working group) Michael Darkow, General Manager of GfK Fernsehforschung, Nuremberg Lutz Erbring, Professor of Journalism and Communication Research, Free University Berlin Wolfgang G. Gibowski, Deputy Director of the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government, Bonn (permanent guest of the working group) Klaus Haupt, Managing Partner, psyma GmbH, Rückersdorf, and chairman of the Arbeitskreis Deutscher Markt- und Sozialforschungsinstitute e.V. (ADM - Working Group of German Market and Social Research Institutes), Frankfurt/Main Max Kaase (chairman), Research Professor at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (Social Science Research Centre Berlin) Hans Mathias Kepplinger, Managing Director of the Institut für Publizistik (Institute for Journalism), Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz Renate Köchler, General Manager of the Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach, Allensbach, Lake Constance Ekkehard Mochmann, General Manager of the Zentralarchiv für Empirische Sozialforschung (Central Archives for Empirical Social Research), University of Cologne Peter Ph. Mohler, Director of the Zentrum für Umfragen, Methoden und Analysen (ZUMA - Centre for Survey Research and Methodology), Mannheim Franz Urban Pappi, Professor of Political Science, University of Mannheim Rolf Porst, Director of the Field Work Department at the Zentrum für Umfragen, Methoden und Analysen (ZUMA - Centre for Survey Research and Methodology), Mannheim (permanent guest of the working group) Bernhard von Rosenbladt, General Manager of Infratest Burke Sozialforschung, Munich Heinz Sahner, Professor of Sociology, University of Halle-Wittenberg Hans-Willi Schroiff, Henkel Internationale Marktforschung, Düsseldorf Erich Wiegand, General Manager of the Arbeitskreis Deutscher Markt- und Sozialforschungsinstitute e.V. (ADM - Working Group of German Market and Social Research Institutes), Frankfurt/Main

Contributors to the memorandum who were not members of the working group: Siegfried Gabler, Director of the Statistics Department at the Zentrum für Umfragen, Methoden und Analysen (ZUMA - Centre for Survey Research and Methodology), Mannheim Sabine Häder, scientist in the Statistics Department at the Zentrum für Umfragen, Methoden und Analysen (ZUMA - Centre for Survey Research and Methodology), Mannheim

Information for editors
A free copy for review may be obtained from the press section of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Kennedyallee 40, D-53175 Bonn, fax 49-228-885-2180 or telephone 49-228-885-2210.

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.