Skip to main content

Next Steps in Securing the Sustainability of the European Social Survey, European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ESS-SUSTAIN-2)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ESS-SUSTAIN-2 (Next Steps in Securing the Sustainability of the European Social Survey, European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ESS-SUSTAIN-2))

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-06-30

The ESS-SUSTAIN-2 project unites a group of European Social Survey, European Research Infrastructure Consortium partner institutions to work together to ensure the sustainability of this social science infrastructure.

The European Social Survey (ESS) is Europe’s largest pan-European research infrastructure providing data about change and stability in the social condition and the opinions of those living there. ESS provides data on a range of topics from trust, religiosity, climate change, health, democracy and many more. There are now 25 Members (countries) of ESS ERIC, over 160,000 registered users of the data as well as almost 5500 publications. In order to ensure that the ESS user community can continue to be served long into the future by the infrastructure this grant provides much needed support to complement the core funding from the ERICs members.
The ESS-SUSTAIN 2 project aims to reinforce the sustainability of the RI through ‘expansion’ - increasing the membership of and participation in ESS ERIC, ‘promoting excellence and efficiency’ by being at the forefront of technical developments in the field and by ‘interconnecting existing and new infrastructures’ to improve the synergies created by linking ESS with other infrastructures.

The Consortium brings together institutions which are part of the Core Scientific Team (CST) of the ESS, with national teams who are responsible for the implementation of the biennial survey waves of the survey. Together their aim is to bolster the infrastructure for the future both financially and scientifically. They are joined by CentERdata to help prepare the ESS technically for its future and organisations responsible for the coordination of the European Values Survey who are exploring a future closer relationship with the ESS.
The ESS ERIC Consortium delivered 3 of the 6 deliverables due and 10 of the 13 milestones were met. There were 2 planned Consortium meetings and 2 Extraordinary Consortium meetings in the period as well as quarterly management meetings to keep the project on track. The pandemic caused some delays and changes to ways of working and delivery however remedial action in some areas has helped to minimise the risk to the project.

WP2 saw detailed work on planning possible new links with the European Values Survey get underway, whilst also seeing wider and deeper links with surveys outside of Europe. Together these activities enhance the value of ESS data promoting sustainability.

WP3 saw the first of the ESS impact events held on the theme of ESS health data. In addition, an impact evaluation was commissioned and launched that will report in the second half of the project. The evaluation will highlight both academic and non-academic impact.

WP4 saw ESS membership and participation increase and regional committees established in Southern Europe and the Western Balkans to help strengthen engagement with the ESS there.

WP5 saw the ESS provide a harmonised technology solution for data collection implemented for the first time in 11 countries, including the use of the same digital survey. Proposed face-to-face tuition was postponed and deferred until the second half of the project in response to the pandemic when it will be delivered face-to-face.

WP6 saw significant preparation for the launch of a 12 country web panel recruited as part of ESS Round 10 face-to-face fieldwork. However as Round 10 was delayed due to the pandemic the panel itself will not be launched until the second half of the project. WP7 which aims to plan how to sustain the panel after the project ends, was delayed until the second half of the project once the success or otherwise of the panel implementation is clearer.

Finally, WP8 ensured the project complied with all ethical and GDPR (data protection) requirements.
At the core of this project is the planned 12 country web panel that will see the ESS operate the largest probability based web panel anywhere in the world. Academics across Europe now have additional questionnaire space to examine issues like vaccine hesitancy, climate change, attitudes towards social Europe and many other topics where previously there was no space to do this cross-nationally. The panel also offers the real possibility to discuss appending such a resource permanently to the main ESS survey in the future. In addition, the harmonised data collection tools used for the face-to-face survey will help to move the ESS beyond the state of the art and embrace the digital age, especially in countries with less developed infrastructure. In addition, training and briefing activities will help to support scientists entering the ESS and users in countries where formal data analysis training is less developed.

The ESS impact case study will highlight the societal impact of the ESS infrastructure by showcasing the non-academic impact of ESS data as well as its impact within academia. This will be complemented by a series of events to highlight how the ESS addresses grand challenges within Europe.

Closer links with the EVS are anticipated by the end of the project, the precise nature of which will emerge in the 2nd period helping to maximise the synergies of the 2 projects in the ERA. Greater and closer global links will add value to the ESS data and help to illuminate how ESS data can assist in addressing global challenges.

Membership development activities have and will continue to help strengthen the ESS infrastructure by adding even more new Members and participants to the infrastructure. This not only adds value to the ESS data by expanding the countries covered but provides additional resources for the ESS to help ensure a balanced and possibly increased budget going forward. This is crucial to the sustainability of the Research Infrastructure.

Together these activities are helping to ensure the long term sustainability of the ESS by strengthening its coverage, its impact and preparing it for its future. In that way it will ensure Europe continues to occupy its world leading place in cross-national social survey research. It will also help to ensure Europe has the data it needs to illuminate the social condition of the continent and ensure Europeans truly have a voice on the key challenges they face.
ESS Lamp