The SOEP was founded in 1983 under the leadership of Prof. Hans-Jürgen Krupp as a subproject of the “Microanalytical Foundations of Social Policy” Collaborative Research Center, which was based at the Universities of Frankfurt/Main and Mannheim and funded by the German Research Association (DFG) since 1979.
In 1983, Krupp brought the SOEP to DIW Berlin. There, he succeeded in establishing the SOEP as an innovative household panel study that was used by researchers beyond the confines of the Collaborative Research Center. After taking office as Hamburg State Minister for Economic Affairs in 1988, Prof. Wolfgang Zapf, then President of the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, took over for one year as director of the SOEP. In 1989, Prof. Gert G. Wagner, who was teaching at the Technical University Berlin, took his place. Together with an outstanding staff, Wagner made the SOEP one of the most important social science research infrastructures worldwide. It was thanks to Wagner’s efforts that the SOEP succeeded in incorporating a sample of respondents from East Germany immediately after the fall of the Wall and a sample of ethnic German repatriates and migrants from the former Eastern bloc in the mid-1990s.
In early 2011, Gert G. Wagner was appointed to the DIW Berlin Executive Board and served for two years as Board Chairman. Joachim Frick and Jürgen Schupp took over as Deputy Directors of the SOEP. After Joachim Frick’s death in December 2011, Jürgen Schupp became Director of the SOEP and was appointed Professor of Sociology at Freie Universität Berlin in 2013. Schupp and his team successfully established the SOEP Innovation Panel, expanded the scope of the SOEP study to address psychological research questions, and worked to develop the SOEP’s network with international research data infrastructures.
In early 2018, Stefan Liebig, Professor of Sociology at Freie Universität Berlin (previously University of Bielefeld), took Jürgen Schupp’s place as Director of the SOEP infrastructure and Gert G. Wagner’s position on the DIW Berlin Executive Board.
After the SOEP’s subproject funding came to an end, it was funded as a project of the DFG from 1990 to 2002, with additional funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) starting in 2000. Since 2003, the SOEP infrastructure has received funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the governments of the federal states as a service unit of the Leibniz Association that is engaged “to a considerable degree in research infrastructure tasks”.
The SOEP has been evaluated twice by the German Council of Science and Humanities. It was a recommendation of the Council in 1994 that led to the SOEP’s institutional funding as part of the Leibniz Association. In 2009, the Council recognized the SOEP as one of the most important research infrastructures in the social, economic, and behavioral sciences.
In 2012, the Leibniz Association evaluated DIW Berlin positively, giving the “research-driven infrastructure SOEP” the highest possible rating of “excellent”.