Data Collection

In the ESS, data has always been collected via face-to-face CAPI interviews in all participating countries.

It was announced in May 2022 that the ESS General Assembly has endorsed a recommendation from its Core Scientific Team to plan a transition of its data collection. This will see a switch from face to face interviews to a (web first) self-completion design. The design will involve web and paper self-completion surveys. The ESS has appointed four experts to help advise on the transition.

In each country, the national funding agency appoints a National Coordinator (NC) and a survey organisation to implement the survey according to the common ESS Specification. The Specification is set to ensure accuracy of data in each country and to optimise comparability of data across countries. The most important standards on data collection include:


In order to foster compliance with these standards, the ESS Core Scientific Team provides guidelines, training materials, as well as individual feedback and support to countries. The training materials consist of an interviewer manual plus a series of pre-structured slides with movie clips. The slides are developed with a teaching approach which acknowledges the interviewers’ previous experience while identifying and remedying any gaps in their knowledge or skills.

The whole process of preparation and implementation of data collection in each country is monitored by the CST. At various points in the survey life cycle, countries are required to document and discuss the planning and progress of data collection. Important milestones include:


Before the data collection:


During the data collection:


After the data collection:


Taken together, the ESS aims to achieve a process of continuous improvement in data collection by implementing a coherent set of quality assurance activities. These activities include the definition of standards, the provision of support in implementing the standards, the analysis and documentation of survey procedures and numerous quality indicators, and, finally, the provision of feedback on any observed deficiencies.