Reports , News of 1 July 2015

Celebrating DIW Berlin’s 90th Anniversary: A Conversation with SOEP Director Jürgen Schupp

DIW Berlin is celebrating its 90th anniversary today. We talked with SOEP Director Jürgen Schupp about the special role the Socio-Economic Panel plays in one of the leading economic research institutes in Germany and Europe.

DIW Berlin was founded 90 years ago as an economic research institute focused primarily on business cycle analysis. Where do you see the institute’s strengths in the year 2015?

When I started at the DIW as a young research associate 30 years ago, our microanalytical project group, which was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), was fairly exotic within the more macroeconomically oriented DIW. Today, when you look at the research being done by the most recent graduates of the DIW Graduate Center, you see a balance between micro and macro analysis. In my view, this methodological diversity and the connection between macro and micro analysis is the defining strength of DIW Berlin today.

What role does the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) play within DIW Berlin?

It plays a very special role. As one of the world’s leading long-term household panel studies, the SOEP provides the material for cutting-edge research, not only in economics but also in a wide range of other social scientific disciplines including psychology. The longitudinally structured data also offer a current, representative basis for evidence-based policy advice by the DIW itself, by the member institutes of the Leibniz Association, but also by many other research institutes worldwide. The SOEP has received outstanding ratings in numerous evaluations over the last 20 years both for its research output and for the quality of its infrastructure services.

Over the past 90 years, the DIW has gone through some stormy times as well. What role do controversies play within the institute?

Controversies provide the raw material for new ways of explaining and solving problems. In economics, but in all other research areas as well, competition for the best explanations and unbiased, evidence-based analysis is far superior to “official positions” or ideologically driven positions on issues.

What social developments do you see as key challenges facing our society in the coming decade?

The refugee issue will be one of the most important challenges. We will have to grapple with questions of how to foster successful integration and how to maintain social harmony and a tolerant, civil, and free and democratic society. These, along with the classic, primarily economic questions, will be the key themes in the next ten years.

What do you personally wish the DIW Berlin on its 90th anniversary?

 I wish the DIW unbroken support from its funding bodies. And I wish it success and a modicum of luck in its applications for competitively awarded funding. Both of these will benefit the institute’s freedom to set its own priorities and focal points in providing outstanding research, relevant policy advice, user-friendly infrastructure, and sustainable knowledge transfer, and will raise the institute’s visibility at both the national and international level.