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Interconnected research in times of crisis

In times of crisis, the urgency to act is high - things must happen quickly, and at the same time political decisions have to be well-founded. Researchers need quality-assured data that are comparable with one another in order to be able to provide policy-makers with reliable research results. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) has developed some suggestions on how researchers can better position themselves for such situations: a catalogue of standard questions that are important in times of crisis. Researchers can use these questions directly in their studies. The survey data collected can then be better compared and linked.

The newly published catalogue of standard questions has a modular structure and can thus be used flexibly. It contains questions on socio-demographic characteristics such as age, income, or school education. “Such characteristics are often crisis-relevant, as the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us,” says education researcher Prof. Dr. Cordula Artelt, co-editor of the question catalogue. In addition, general crisis-related questions are recommended, for example on life satisfaction or social cohesion.

The catalogue is intended to facilitate the work of researchers in the social sciences in particular. But not only: “Social crises can hardly be limited to one field of research; the challenges are always multidisciplinary. The question catalogue can therefore also be helpful for researchers from other disciplines,” says sociologist Prof. Dr. Stefan Liebig, who co-developed the catalogue.

A handout facilitates the use of the catalogue

A group of experts in the German Data Forum has commented on the catalogue to make it easier for researchers to use. In this handout, the German Data Forum also presents initiatives for coordinating social science research in crisis situations. It presents further strategies on how data can be brought together.

In addition to interconnection, the main goal is also standardisation. The catalogue of standard questions is based on established standards and analyses of scientific surveys. Further insights have been gained through workshops and exchange with experts. The catalogue and the handout are the result of a BMBF-funded project on empirical research in social crises.

Both publications are available for free download on the website of the German Data Forum:


The German Data Forum (RatSWD) advises the federal government and the governments in the federal states on expanding and improving the research data infrastructure for the empirical social, behavioural and economic sciences since 2004. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) is made up of ten elected representatives from the social, behavioural, and economic disciplines who work together with ten representatives from key data producers.

The German Data Forum (RatSWD) is part of the Consortium for Social, Behavioural, Educational, and Economic sciences (KonsortSWD) in the National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI). It acts as an institutionalised forum for dialogue between science and data producers, as well as developing recommendations and opinions. It is committed to supporting an infrastructure that enables sciences to have broad, flexible, and secure data access. These data are provided by state, science-based, and private-sector actors. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) has currently accredited 42 research data centres and encourages their cooperation.