SCiDEV, WBESS network member, sat down virtually with Teuta Xhindi, an ESS Champion in Albania to discuss on how ESS data is perceived in the country, its importance for academia and policy makers, and systemic issues that should be addressed to increase the understanding and usage of high quality data.
Teuta Xhindi is head of the Department of Informatics at Universiteti Mesdhetar i Shqiperise, a non-public university located in Tirana, which caters to more than 3500 students across 35 different programs. She holds a doctorate in statistics, and was a lecturer during the ESS Winter School, organized in 2019 in Albania, under the framework of ESS Round 9.
Teuta, thank you for taking time to talk to us during this end-of-year, busy season. In your opinion, why is ESS data important for Albanian researchers?
Thank you for the interview!
In my opinion, ESS is very important for the community of researchers because it provides the database, which is the heart of any study. Oftentimes, researchers encounter difficulties in obtaining proper data related to the Albanian context, especially when it comes to micro data. There are cases when authors, in order to obtain data for various scientific studies, pay the target group to conduct interviews or complete the questionnaires. Considering these factors, the data provided by this survey presents a great opportunity for all researchers, firstly because it is free access and secondly because it is collected following high quality standards, which are unified for all participating countries.
What about educators? Do you think lecturers are aware and make use of this wealth of data in their classes?
Albania has participated in only 2 rounds of ESS: in the sixth round, 2012 and in the ninth round, 2019. Of these 2 rounds, only the results of the sixth round have been published, while the results of the ninth round have not been published yet. I believe that due to the lack of providing data consistently and without delays, as well as due to the lack of thorough information about ESS, the use of this wealth of data is limited in Albania.
How do you think policy makers can use this data?
The results of this survey measure every two years, the perception of citizens on issues related to the functioning of democracy, trust in institutions, economy, religion, immigration, crime and personal security, employment, etc. As such, governments are informed about how democracy works in their countries and how people perceive their lives, society and nation. Thus, it is in the interest of policymakers to recognize the public perception and react effectively to solve the problems that arise.
What do you think are the main barriers for Albanian researchers in using ESS data?
As I mentioned before, Albania has participated in only 2 rounds of ESS, of which only the results of the sixth round have been published. Regarding the use of ESS data, maximum efforts must be made for Albania to participate consistently in this survey. This will allow to conduct comparative studies not only within the country from one period to another but also between different countries participating in this survey.
Do you think that ESS data (which are high quality, and free to access) can be a way to address issues related to access to quality data in Albania?
Often, for issues addressed in the media and various debates, adequate studies are missing, there is no supporting data. In these conditions, ESS will serve as an information tool to enable subsequent actions in order to solve problems.
You were a lecturer back in 2019, during the ESS Winter School organized as part of the events around ESS Round 9 in Albania. Reflecting on that experience, as well as your insights as an educator, which are the most effective capacity building activities for improving data analysis skills in Albania?
Today, data analysis is a fundamental tool for any organization. This process requires a specialized and qualified personnel, able to perform data collection as well as data processing.
It is the duty of universities to prepare qualified specialists, who will be able to adapt to the requirements of different organizations. But, I think that the apprehension and basic skills training in data processing for students should start in earlier stages of education, by working independently or performing group tasks, beginning with the design of the problem and following all the steps till the interpretation of the results.
Any final comments?
First, appreciating the importance of ESS, I think we should lobby for Albania to become part of this survey.
Secondly, I would like to emphasize the importance of investing in technology for Albanian companies, especially in digital technologies driven by AI and machine learning, which will help in the prosperous continuation of business life.
The interview was conducted by Orkidea Xhaferaj, the National Focal Point in Albania.