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German Data Forum calls for the early systematic integration of the scientific community in the 2021 Census

Press release, 06.03.19

During its 51st meeting on 28 February and 1 March 2019, the German Data Forum (RatSWD) discussed the further development of the German population census after 2021. The census will be made more efficient and up-to-date in the future by basing it on population registers. Securing a degree of registry quality and systematically integrating science and research will ensure the success of the census as well as the availability of the data for relevant social research.
The meeting also saw the registration of the Akademie für Soziologie, a German sociological association, as an academic organization eligible to submit election proposals at the German Data Forum’s election in February/March 2020.

Much of the groundwork for the census after 2021 is currently being laid out. During its 51st meeting on 28 February and 1 March 2019, the German Data Forum invited Prof. Dr. Ralf Münnich (University of Trier), a distinguished expert on census methodology, to discuss the further development of the German census. It is the German Data Forum’s view that there is much more preliminary work necessary in order to be able to conduct the first register-based census, as envisioned by policy makers. Much of this work centres on quality assurance of the respective population registers. Standardised resident registers and data cleansing are of key importance in this context.

The German Data Forum published comprehensive recommendations on updating resident registers as early as 2016. It later underscored the importance of modernising registers and making register data available to researchers, putting forward the view that the latter are well-equipped to evaluate register data quality and identify potential improvements. Systematically integrating researchers into the census collection process ensures that the census data, which are costly to collect, can be later used to answer socially relevant research questions. The scientific community should identify its requirements early on and approach legislators with a unified voice.

Complementing the census debate, the RatSWD assessed the current state of affairs regarding the establishment of a federal education register. Its members agreed to actively pursue the issue and closely monitor ongoing debates within the scientific community.

Moreover, the German Data Forum approved the registration of the Akademie für Soziologie, a German sociological association, as an academic organisation eligible to submit proposals for the election of the German Data Forum’s scientific members. Following this latest addition, the German Data Forum is now supported by 14 academic organisations. The next RatSWD election will take place in February/March 2020.

The German Data Forum’s next meeting will take place on 6/7 June 2019 in Berlin.


Established in 2004, the German Data Forum (Rat für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsdaten, RatSWD) is an independent council. It advises the German federal government and the federal states (Länder) in matters concerning the research data infrastructure for the empirical social, behavioural, and economic sciences. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) has 16 members. Membership consists of eight elected representatives of the social, behavioural, and economic sciences and eight appointed representatives of Germany’s most important data producers. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) offers a forum for dialogue between researchers and data producers, who jointly issue recommendations and position papers. The council furthers the development of a research infrastructure that provides researchers with flexible and secure access to a broad range of data. The German Data Forum (RatSWD) has accredited 32 research data centres and fosters their interaction and collaboration.