Interview , News of 30 June 2014

Introducing Axel Glemser—in five questions

Axel Glemser is the new director in charge of SOEP at TNS Infratest Sozialforschung in Munich. He took up this new position on May 1, 2014. We had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Glemser in Berlin and ask him a few questions.


What are your responsibilities in your new job?

I’m responsible for all the data collection work done by TNS Infratest on behalf of DIW Berlin. That means everything from writing the proposal and making the cost estimate to doing the sampling and questionnaire development all the way to conducting the survey and processing the data after the fieldwork has been concluded, as well as coding and testing. I have a broad-based team of around 20 experts behind me at TNS Infratest to help carry out these tasks. This also means that management questions are important. As a director, I’m only as good as my team.


What was your career path up to this point, and what are the key strengths you bring to your new job?

I started working at TNS Infratest in statistics in 1999. I was responsible for the whole range of sampling methods—face-to-face, telephone, online surveys. In 2006, I became a department head in charge of all “Sampling for Germany”, which meant that I was responsible for sampling as well as for weighting and overseeing the development of the samples. Having an overview of the entire data collection process is something that fascinates me to this day—looking at questions like: What is it I’m causing with my sample? What’s happening with the sample in the field? What’s coming back to us from the fieldwork? As an expert in survey research, I became an advisor on survey methodology in 2010 and worked closely with clients from a wide range of research fields. I’ll be bringing both my methodological experience and my client perspective into my work with the SOEP.


When and how did you first hear about the SOEP?

It was back in 1999, during my first few weeks of work at Infratest. An innovation sample had just been set up for the SOEP in the statistics department. I had the privilege of actually drawing the sample together with a co-worker. At the time, though, I didn’t have a detailed understanding of the ideas behind the SOEP or know that these newly recruited households would later become part of the SOEP Innovation Sample (SOEP-IS).


What were you doing 30 years ago when the SOEP study was launched?

In 1984 I was still in school. Back then, my survey knowledge was limited to the “TED” televoting-system on the German TV game show “Wetten dass” (in English: “Wanna bet?”).


Looking to the future: What are your hopes for your own career—and what are your personal visions for the SOEP?

I hope to get off to a good running start in the first 100 days. I am delighted that there are already new projects where I can contribute my expertise. If things keep going like they are now, I’ll be very happy. In this phase of enormous expansion underway in the SOEP—in particular with SOEP-IS and the refresher samples—the rising costs of highquality interviewer-based surveys will be a significant challenge we will have to contend with in the years to come. A key task will be to maintain the same level of panel stability in the core sample that we have achieved up to now. Taking the step to create a SOEP Innovation Sample was also the right choice. In the future, the trend will be to use the Innovation Sample to push for new approaches—using cognitive and psychological tests, biomarkers, that is, designs that combine classic approaches with other study methods.

A video of the complete interview in German can be viewed in the DIW Berlin Mediathek.