UPF is participating in the creation of the first survey of birth cohorts in Europe, to improve children’s wellbeing



The RECSM research centre of the Department of Political and Social Sciences, led by Mariano Torcal together with Wiebke Weber as principal investigator of the COORDINATE project at the University, will be collaborating in the design of the questionnaires to ensure their quality. COORDINATE, which enjoys funding from the European Commission and the participation of nineteen universities and research centres, will allow building the capacity and infrastructure to collect and use data from longitudinal surveys.

COhort cOmmunity Research and Development Infrastructure Network for Access Throughout Europe ( COORDINATE ) is the title of a research project funded under the ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures) call of the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme. The project involves UPF, via the Research and Expertise Centre for Survey Methodology (RECSM) of the Department of Political and Social Sciences, directed by Mariano Torcal. The principal investigator at UPF is Wiebke Weber , deputy director of RECSM, who is responsible for the quality of the survey questions.

The project, endowed with a total of around five million euros, brings together nineteen partners from universities and research centres belonging to fourteen European countries.

The main goals of COORDINATE, which will last four years (from April 2021 to March 2025), are to improve access to existing survey data on child welfare, increase the capacity of longitudinal surveys across Europe, expand the Growing Up in Digital Europe ( GUIDE/ EuroCohort ) survey network and launch it, with a large-scale pilot cohort survey using a harmonized research design in Croatia, Finland, France and Ireland, considered key countries.

The project, endowed with a total of around five million euros, brings together nineteen partners from universities and research centres belonging to fourteen European countries, coordinated by Manchester Metropolitan University (UK). Together they will start the community of researchers and organizations in order to promote the coordinated development of research into comparative surveys of birth groups in Europe.

"Although Spain is initially not part of the pilot survey, it is expected that in the coming years it will be able to join, provided that the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation invests additional funding for this European project, and that it might provide basic information on the generational effect within Spain on topics such as education, health, welfare, etc.", Mariano Torcal, full professor of Political Science at UPF, affirms.

Participation by UPF in COORDINATE is essential for project success

UPF’s participation in the project (the University will have a budget of 106,875 euros) will be decisive in guaranteeing the design and quality of the surveys. Wiebke Weber explains that "at the centre of the survey there is always the questionnaire, and the questions they contain are the raison d’ętre of the whole exercise. The quality of the questions themselves is therefore fundamental, as well as their ability to effectively measure what is of interest in an equivalent way between countries". And she adds: "At the RECSM not only do we have the experience of questionnaire developers to ensure the best quality, but we also have the Survey Quality Predictor ( SQP ) software, that allows quantifying the quality of the survey questions".

Wiebke Weber: The quality of the survey questions is fundamental, as is their ability to effectively measure what is of interest in an equivalent way between countries".

The researcher points out that "within the framework of COORDINATE we will use the SQP software to compare different variations of questions during the design of the questionnaire and to predict the quality of the measurement of the final questions that serve as a general indicator of quality, as well as for correcting the measurement error in data analysis".

Meanwhile, Mariano Torcal highlights the importance of the project: "Children’s welfare is essential for any society and I am pleased that we can contribute to this goal thanks to our participation in COORDINATE. The project is highly ambitious and poses some major methodological challenges that highlight RECSM’s unique experience, and reinforces its position as a research centre of excellence".

Mariano Torcal: "The project is highly ambitious and poses some major methodological challenges that highlight RECSM’s unique experience, and reinforces its position as a research centre of excellence."

The director of RECSM emphasizes that the project will also contribute to knowledge transfer: "We will offer research seminars and specific courses based on this participation within the framework of the methods schools we organize every year. As such, we will support the creation of a network of Spanish researchers to ensure their participation in Europe’s first birth cohort survey, GUIDE (Growing Up In Digital Europe: EuroCohort)".

COORDINATE will start a community of researchers who will work to improve child welfare

The COORDINATE project will begin the first survey of birth cohorts across Europe to track children’s wellbeing as they grow up, and will ensure that high-quality survey data can be taken into account in policies that directly affect children’s lives. It will be led by professor Gary Pollock , from the Policy Evaluation & Research Unit at Manchester Metropolitan University, and professor Jennifer Symonds , from the Geary Institute for Public Policy at University College Dublin.

Gary Pollock: "The seismic effects of the covid-19 crisis on the education and mental wellbeing of young people underscores the importance of understanding how the political decisions adopted today affect them in the coming years."

According to Professor Pollock "the seismic effects of the covid-19 crisis on the education and mental wellbeing of young people underscores the importance of understanding how the political decisions adopted today affect them in the coming years. In the UK, for example, we have witnessed major changes in their daily lives, both at school and at home".

According to professor Symonds "a Europe-wide birth cohort survey will allow policymakers to access large amounts of data on measures of young people’s health and wellbeing, such as stress at school and happiness at home, and analyse how they are affected by the decisions taken by young people at various stages of their lives. We believe that this will give them a stronger voice in dialogues on the issues that affect them".

In this regard, the project will give a voice to children in research that concerns them, as it will establish Youth Advisory Committees in the UK, Portugal, Croatia and Finland, to involve them at all levels and stages of the research.

A step beyond the GUIDE project, an accelerated cohort survey that can help policymakers

COORDINATE is the next phase of the GUIDE ( Growing Up In Digital Europe: EuroCohort ) project, funded by Horizon 2020 as recognition that policymakers across Europe are currently unable to make use of consistent, comparable, high quality data on child welfare to make their decisions.

GUIDE is intended to be an important source of evidence in the development of social policies for children, young people and families across Europe for many years.

GUIDE is intended to be an important source of evidence in the development of social policies for children, young people and families across Europe for many years. It will be an accelerated longitudinal cohort survey that will include representative samples on a national scale of newborn babies and school children. With two parallel cohorts, it will be possible to compare cohorts early on in the life of the survey.

Longitudinal surveys are important because they provide information on the development of policies. Longitudinal data can be used to show how the experiences of different cohorts of people vary throughout their lives. The GUIDE survey can provide policymakers with unique knowledge on key transitions in the lives of children, the ability to make international comparisons of child and youth welfare, and opportunities to assess the impact of policies over time.


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