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iFQ Scientists Surveys – a barometer for the academic world

Trend studies, mood barometers, and opinion polls are collected in many societal areas – ranging from the economy and individual markets to special topics in the mass media and in politics. Long-term public opinion research can provide important information about temporal developments and current trends in the respective field. For example, it allows better estimating and evaluating economic cycles or electoral behaviour. However, survey research seldom focuses on the academia as an autonomous, but equally important societal area. While numerous surveys of individual groups, which are active in research and teaching, are conducted, we still lack a comprehensive understanding of the state and development of the German academic system. This is particularly surprising as the academic system has profoundly changed over the past few years. Consequently, it is of particular interest to document scholars' perceptions about these processes.

Following up on these developments, the Institute for Research Information and Quality Assurance (iFQ) has launched the Scientists Surveys in 2009. The first large-scale study in Germany has been conducted in 2010 and has provided insights into the working conditions at German universities and research institutions as well as perceptions of major programmes and individual instruments of academic support, such as the German national and Länder Excellence Initiative. The study has also systematically included information from earlier surveys. It has further covered opinions on the discourse on academic policies and on related subjects, such as academic misconduct, the relationship between internally and externally funded research, assessment procedures etc. The extensive survey of academics and researchers in Germany ought to be conducted every five years in order to allow us to acquire a profound knowledge of the long-term developments. As such, the iFQ Scientists Survey is a continuous mood barometer of the academic world.

n the past few years, the iFQ has also offered to conduct commissioned studies that built on the content and methodology of the 2010 iFQ Scientists Survey in Germany. Along these lines, it worth mentioning the Survey of academic staff at Austrian higher education institutions and non-university research institutes commissioned by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and the Survey of academic staff at the UAMR, the university alliance in the Ruhr area of Germany on behalf of the Mercator Foundation.

The next Scientists Survey in Germany will be carried out in February 2016 by the 2nd Division of the German Centre for Research on Higher Education and Science Studies (DZHW). For the first time, the survey will also interview mid-level researchers at German universities in addition to professors. As a trend study, the Scientists Survey 2016 will ask repeat questions from previous questionnaires. At the same time, the current questionnaire integrates new topics, which focus on the recent debate on academic policies and account for the special situation of the mid-level staff.

Contact person: Jörg Neufeld, Dr. David Johann