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Information for Researchers No. 62 | 30 October 2013
Priority Programme “Education as a Lifelong Process” (SPP 1646)

The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has established a Priority Programme entitled ”Education as a Lifelong Process” (SPP 1646). The DFG invites scientists to submit proposals for the second three-year funding period.

Today, not much is known about education as a lifelong process and the cumulative and interactive impact of learning that occurs in multiple contexts over the life span. The new National Educational Panel Study (NEPS) in Germany is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research within its Framework Programme for the Promotion of Empirical Educational Research. The NEPS provides unique, nationally representative longitudinal data on individual’s educational careers and competencies and how they unfold over the life course in relation to family, educational institutions, workplaces, and private life. To obtain relevant data as quickly as possible, four starting cohorts have been recruited in the fall of 2010. These contain persons at a specific stage in the education system or in a specific age group. Sample selection is oriented toward transitions both within the education system and between the education system and the labour market. The major transitions are those to elementary school, to the tracked secondary school system, to vocational training or higher education, and to the labour market for graduates of both vocational training and higher education. An exception is the starting cohort for studying adult education. Irrespective of current participation in education or the labour market, this representative sample of 23- to 64-year-olds is already being surveyed in 2009. In addition, since 2012 a birth cohort of infants has been built up to document and analyse early child development and the entry to early child care institutes (day nursery, Kindergarten, etc.).

To summarise the six representative starting cohorts are composed of infants, 4- to 5-year-olds attending Kindergarten, 10- to 11-year-olds in 5th grade, 14- to 15-year-olds in 9th grade, first-year higher education students, and 23- to 64-year-old adults.

These cohorts can be visualised in a multicohort sequence design. The multicohort sequence design of the NEPS covers educational careers of about 60,000 participants from early childhood up to old age. To document and analyse historical changes in the way people pass through these stages, new starting cohorts will also be recruited in later years (creating a succession of cohorts).

NEPS is set up as an open research infrastructure providing unique data for further research within the scientific community. The Priority Programme of DFG aims to be a starting point to foster widespread public use of the data and the research opportunities of NEPS. This call is open to all interested researchers in Germany from all related disciplines in social sciences. Equal access to the data is granted for prospective applicants. Further information is available at the NEPS homepage (see below).

The members of the NEPS Steering Committee are Prof Dr. Jutta Allmendinger, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB), Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Hans-Peter Blossfeld (chairman until July 2012), University of Bamberg, Prof. Dr. Hans-Günter Roßbach (chairman since August 2012), University of Bamberg, Prof. Dr. Sabine Weinert, University of Bamberg, and Prof. Dr. Andrä Wolter, Humboldt University of Berlin.

Submitted research projects should focus on (one of the following themes):

  • Substantive analysis utilising the NEPS database. This includes descriptions and analysis of educational transitions, careers, and competence developments over shorter and longer spans in the life course as well as all kinds of theory-driven studies on educational processes. The design and the data collection of the NEPS are based on a broad range of theories and hypotheses from sociology, psychology, education sciences, pedagogy, and economics regarding the conditions and consequences of education as a lifelong process.

  • Linking and analysing NEPS data together with other national and/or international datasets in order to validate instruments and to conduct theory-driven (comparative) analyses. In particular, projects are welcome on cross-national or national comparisons of educational transitions or pathways and competence developments using data from various NEPS cohorts and other longitudinal studies. Projects are also invited which match data from other data sources in Germany (e.g. data from the statistical offices of the federal states in Germany or process-produced data from the Federal Employment Agency) to the NEPS database.

  • Addressing methodological issues relevant to the NEPS. Analyses of education as a lifelong process require advanced quantitative longitudinal methodology and suitable measurement instruments. The Priority Programme therefore invites projects which apply and further develop new methodology and techniques of longitudinal data analysis. Two topics of these projects are particularly useful during the next funding period: Projects with a focus on mode effects and/or validity (e.g. by comparing NEPS measurements and assessments to other large-scale studies), primarily in competence measurements over the life course; and projects with a focus on the development of new methods of item and unit imputation in the case of longitudinal studies in a multilevel design. However, the Priority Programme also invites projects which further develop statistical and data management tools for longitudinal data analysis.

Proposals for the second three-year funding period should be submitted via DFG’s electronic submission system elan by 28 March 2014. Please select the appropriate call “SPP 1646 – Education as a Lifelong Process” when submitting your proposal. All proposals must be written in English.

In case you are using the elan system for the first time when submitting your proposal, please note that you first need to register at the elan portal. Confirmation of your registration will usually take up to one working day. Please make sure that all applicants of your project (in case there is more than one) start their registration well before the submission deadline. Proposal submission will only be possible after the registration of all applicants has been completed.

Further information

The DFG’s electronic proposal processing system “elan” with proposal instructions and guidelines can be found at:

Proposal guidelines and preparation instructions are outlined in DFG forms 54.01en and 50.05en, part B, which can be found on the DFG’s website at:

For further information please refer to the Priority Programme’s webpage:

Information on the NEPS panel study, questionnaires and data releases is available at:

Please note: Questionnaires can only be downloaded through the following user login:

  • username: neps2spp
    password: neps2spp

Please register once with your name and institution to receive your individual download code that enables you to access the questionnaires and data releases.

For scientific enquiries concerning the scope of the programme, please contact the Priority Programme’s coordinators:

  • Professor Dr. Sabine Weinert,
    Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg,
    Fakultät Humanwissenschaften,
    Lehrstuhl Psychologie I: Entwicklung und Lernen,
    D-96045 Bamberg,
    Phone: +49 951 863-1900,
    E-Mail: sabine.weinert@uni-bamberg.de

  • Professor Dr. Hans-Peter Blossfeld,
    European University Institute,
    Department of Political and Social Sciences,
    Badia Fiesolana,
    Via dei Roccettini 9,
    I-50016 Fiesole,
    Phone: +39 55 / 4685210,
    E-Mail: hp.blossfeld@eui.eu

For funding enquiries please contact:

  • Dr. Stefan Koch,
    Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft,
    53170 Bonn,
    Phone: +49 228 885-2459,
    E-Mail: stefan.koch@dfg.de

For administrative enquiries please contact:

  • Katja Fleischer,
    Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft,
    53170 Bonn,
    Phone: +49 228 885-2380,
    E-Mail: katja.fleischer@dfg.de