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Well prepared: How science and politics remain capable of acting in crisis situations

In crisis situations, policymakers rely on findings from social and economic research in order to assess social consequences and make decisions. This is hardly possible without quality-checked research data. In its position paper published today, the German Data Forum (RatSWD) makes demands on politics and science to ensure that research is better prepared for crisis situations.

Crises pose particular challenges for research and politics. At an expert workshop, the RatSWD identified the aspects that require particular attention in crisis situations and summarised them in a position paper.

The scientific community should establish emergency structures in order to react as quickly and in a coordinated manner as possible in crisis situations. In the event of a crisis, a permanent coordination centre can act as a point of contact for research and politics and organise joint activities. With the help of pre-developed standard questionnaires and sampling plans, the need for new social and economic research data can be met in specific crisis situations and data links made possible.

Better cooperation between politics and research

Vulnerable groups should receive special attention (e.g. through long-term studies). In this way, the effects of crisis-related change on these groups can be better assessed and political actors can react in a more targeted manner than before. The expertise of the social and economic sciences supports, for example, assessments of the social impact of crises.

A coordination centre can ensure a rapid exchange of information not only between research and politics, but also with public administration and local disaster relief.

Other aspects for better preparing research for crisis situations include reliable IT structures at research institutions, adapting the fixed-term contracts of researchers if they take on additional crisis-relevant tasks, and flexible funding.

Download Position Paper [German]


The German Data Forum (RatSWD) has been advising the German federal government and the governments of the German states on questions of research data infrastructure for the empirical social, behavioural and economic sciences since 2004. In the RatSWD, ten representatives of the social, behavioural and economic disciplines, legitimised by election, work together with ten representatives of data production.

The RatSWD is part of the Consortium for the Social, Behavioural, Educational and Economic Sciences (KonsortSWD) in the National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI). It sees itself as an institutionalised forum for dialogue between science and data producers and develops recommendations and statements. In doing so, it is committed to an infrastructure that provides science with broad, flexible and secure access to data. These data are provided by governmental, science-based and private-sector actors. Currently, the RatSWD has accredited 41 research data centres and promotes their cooperation.