Peer exchange, knowledge sharing, and survey research in the Balkans

An online meeting titled “Peer exchange, knowledge sharing and know-how from national coordinators and team members in Montenegro and Serbia” was organized on October 15.

The meeting gathered researchers from the Balkans and elsewhere who are preparing to run ESS surveys in their countries, together with researchers who have already been involved in conducting ESS surveys – national coordinators (NCs) and team members. The meeting intended to enable peer exchange, knowledge, and experience sharing, in order to assist the prospective ESS NCs in preparing and running ESS surveys in their countries.

ESS collaborators from Montenegro and Serbia who shared their experiences were:

  • Olivera Komar, NC Montenegro
  • Dragan Stanojevic, NC Serbia
  • Bojan Todosijevic, Senior Research fellow and ESS Team member, Serbia


Prospective ESS collaborators included: Abi Dodbiba, Orkidea Xhaferaj, Lirije Palushi, Alexander Tsagareli, Bakar Berekashvili, Aneta Cekikj, Klime Babunski, Nermin Oruc

The meeting was also attended by Nenad Celarevic and Natasa Krivokapic.

Multiple topics were addressed during the meeting, from specific questions about sampling procedures to more general issues such as setting up a research team and budgeting issues.

One of the topics that were discussed more extensively was sampling. The adequate sampling procedure is one of the key issues for surveys that aim to capture representative data about public attitudes and opinions, such as the ESS. Researchers from different countries often have different possibilities to accomplish the sampling process, it was useful to review various possible solutions for common problems. Fieldwork organization was also one of the main topics of discussion. It was emphasized that a qualified and motivated field workforce is essential for a successful data collection. Hence, the topics covered involved recruitment and training of interviewers, fieldwork coordination and supervision, and fieldwork quality control. The need for continuous quality control was stressed as one of the main organizational tasks and challenges, and that it is useful to plan sufficient resources (human resources in particular), in order to secure data of high quality.

The presenters shared their experiences and provided tips and suggestions on how to organize and conduct systematic fieldwork quality control. It was also suggested that it would be useful to share syntax for data quality control in real-time. Timely reactions in case of fieldwork problems are often the key to securing the required quality level, which makes real-time quality control essential.

Preparing the CAPI questionnaire was another topic that attracted significant attention. Both teams of the presenters used the same, software platform (Open Data Kit, Discussion about the challenges and benefits of using such a platform was discussed with interest. Since it is an open-source platform, it is easy to share the codes, as well as tips and tricks for more efficient questionnaire programming. In fact, the programmed questionnaire structure has already been shared among several country teams in the Balkans and elsewhere.

Discussion about budgeting issues was also received with interest. One of the main messages was that accomplishing a demanding survey such as the ESS requires allocating sufficient resources to often underfunded areas such as quality control, sampling, or questionnaire programming.

Since social sciences, the academic survey research, in particular, is in a similar position in the involved countries, it was easy to find a common language and outline the expected challenges. All participants agreed to stay in touch, and continue communication and cooperation both through similar formal meetings in the future and through informal channels, more focused on specific cases and issues.

It was also concluded that similar meetings would particularly be welcomed as the fieldwork periods in the involved countries approach closer.

One topic for a future meeting that was suggested could be focused on using the date once the fieldwork is completed and data submitted to the ESS HQ. What sometimes happens is that the effort and resources have been invested in data collection, which is not followed by the comparable interest in using the data by the local research communities. Hence, future meetings could be devoted to encouraging research output using the ESS and related comparative social science data.


This text was written by Bojan Todosijevic