Methods of empirical social research
More than 20 years the members of the department of Sociology conduct research on empirical methods generating more than 60 publications (books, journal articles and book chapters) on methods. Currently, the quantitative methodologists in the department are engaged in various projects in Austrian and cross-national survey research. This results in the contribution in several survey programmes and research projects: Involvement in the Austrian Social Survey: The survey is a cooperation of the methods departments of several Austrian universities and collects data on central political and social values and attitudes of the Austrians every two years ( https://aussda.at/sozialer-survey-oesterreich/). The next survey waves until 2024 are funded in the framework of the “Digitize” project ( https://digitize-transformation.at).
The methods team is participating in the “Digitize” project in a work package for the development of a new Austrian Online Access Panel. An interdisciplinary cooperation with colleagues from the University of Salzburg contributes to an FFG project application led by the University of Vienna, which aims for financing this online panel. The panel shall continuously monitor public opinion in Austria covering standard and rotating topics.
In addition, we initiated the Austrian participation in the Values in Crisis Study, which was launched by the World Value Survey Association in 2020. In this globally conducted survey, researchers explore how the Corona pandemic disrupts political and social attitudes and whether profound processes of value change can be observed as a result of the crisis. Fifteen countries participated in the first survey, which has already been completed, and two further waves of the survey are planned for 2021 and 2022. The Austrian data have already been published at AUSSDA ( https://aussda.at/rss/detail/news/drei-fragen-an-wolfgang-aschauer/).
During the last years, the research team addressed central questions in the field of basic methodological issues in various publications, primarily with regard to data construction. Data gathering in surveys is a multifaceted process with potential bias at various stages of research (e.g. sampling, fieldwork, measurement errors or superficial data interpretation). Consequently, data quality in surveys requires a comprehensive approach. The contributions of the methods team aim to develop essential components of a sophisticated theory of quantitative interviews. (see the monography of Reinhard Bachleitner, Martin Weichbold und Wolfgang Aschauer: https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-531-92327-7).
The analysis of fundamental challenges in comparative research is another main research field of the department of sociology. The comparable and functionally equivalent measurement of theoretical concepts is a requirement for content validity. Current research activities focus either on the comparability of concepts within specific areas of research or deal with equivalence problems within different stages of a survey (e.g. cultural response styles concerning the respondents). These efforts resulted in a comprehensive monograph, which is currently a reference book on equivalence in survey research: https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-658-04199-1
Current research activities in the context of intercultural survey research deal, for example, with the comparability of concepts in specific research topics (e.g. wellbeing, see here: https://www.persee.fr/doc/caf_2431-4501_2019_num_131_1_3357) and the participation in initiatives to strengthen survey research in the Global South (see https://www.mes.tu-berlin.de/v_menue/gcsmus_daad_exceed/partner/)
Besides these manifold research activities which is also visible in a high publication output (see publications) the department of sociology has already reached a high level of national and international visibility (see institutional integration) due to the organization of conferences (see conferences) and a strong presence at major national and international scientific meetings (see presentations).
In addition, considerable successes have also been achieved in the acquisition of external funding. Besides the cooperation with the Paracelsus Medical University Salzburg (PMU) in an extensive and highly prestigious project on pain research ( https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aktionsb%C3%BCndnis_Schmerzfreie_Stadt_M%C3%BCnster), three FFG projects were successfully completed in recent years. In the first project, which was part of the security focus “Protection of Critical Infrastructures”, we established a statistical database to draw future scenarios of migration movements (foresight cockpit). In the second project, we analysed security perceptions of Austrians extracted on the basis of daily media information. The algorithms and the implemented software was methodically evaluated. In the last project “Tectrends” current methods for measuring technology developments were analysed in a multidisciplinary cooperation with participating partners based on a mixed-methods design (see third-party funded projects).
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