GLEN – a large scale panel study for the environmental social science research

22 Mar 2024

Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the study aims to provide a unique data infrastructure as a basis for evidence-based policy advice.

  • Researchers from Munich, Kaiserslautern, and Leipzig are launching a long-term study on environmental and protest behavior, environmental awareness and inequality in Germany – German Longitudinal Environmental Study (GLEN).
  • This large-scale project is the first longitudinal social science study on environmental and climate topics in Germany.

The goal of making the economy and society more environmentally sustainable and carbon neutral poses major challenges for politics, business, and the general population. What do people think about it? A new long-term project will provide answers to key social questions such as: What factors change environmental attitudes and behaviors? What are the dynamics behind the acceptance of environmental initiatives and protests regarding climate policies? How do climate policies influence household CO2 emissions? Which social groups are affected in particular? What are the social consequences between sound environmental policies or the lack thereof? How do environmental conditions in neighborhoods – such as noise and air pollution, transport infrastructure and green spaces – affect environmental awareness and action? Are there structural conditions that facilitate climate-friendly actions, and what role do sociodemographic differences play?

In a joint project, scientists from LMU Munich, the University of Kaiserslautern-Landau (RPTU), and Leipzig University are launching the first ever longitudinal study on this topic in Germany, which will create a new data base for social science research on environmental and climate issues. Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the long-term project will provide data for a wide range of research questions in all social science disciplines. The German Longitudinal Environmental Study (GLEN) has received initial funding of almost six million euros for a period of three years. Over the envisaged twelve years of the project, it is expected to receive a total funding of around 20 million euro.

High-quality longitudinal data

“This task requires excellent data. By providing a better understanding of human behavior, social sciences provide pivotal impulses for research in climate sciences,” explains Prof. Katrin Auspurg, principal investigator at LMU. “To answer various questions, not only macro data on re-distributive effects, but also trend and panel data on public attitudes and behavior are key.”

Only by surveying the same people over an extended period of time it can be measured how inequalities, environmental awareness and action, potential polarization, and protest behavior change in the population over time. “Without focusing on human behavior there are no clear evaluations of success rates, social consequences, and distributional effects of climate and environmental policies,” says Prof. Henning Best, principal investigator at RPTU.

Innovative methodological approaches

High data quality and innovative methods are key to answering these and many other research questions. “The call for high-quality individual data has been loud and clear in environmental social science research,” says Dr. Christiane Bozoyan, principal investigator and coordinator of the project at the LMU Munich.

With panel waves every six months over twelve years, GLEN is a survey of the German population aged 18 and older, with a master sample of more than 20,000 people. The comprehensive questionnaire is combined with experimental methods and complemented with regional data. In addition, the project includes GLEN+ studies for collaborations with local actors such as municipalities and regions: By supplementing the GLEN data with their own local samples they are able to compare the local population against a national benchmark. In addition, collaborations are planned with partners from academia and public administration to develop experimental research. „With its large sample size and the broad, interdisciplinary range of environmental topics covered GLEN will be worldwide unique,” says Dr. Claudia Schmiedeberg, principal investigator and coordinator at LMU.

The results produced with GLEN data will ultimately form the basis for evidence-based policy advice. “GLEN and the GLEN+ projects facilitate a comprehensive and critical scientific evaluation of various policies. In particular, the panel will provide answers to questions such as how climate policies affect household CO2 emissions and which social groups are most impacted,” explains Prof. Andreas Diekmann, principal investigator at Leipzig University.

Prof. Dr. Katrin Auspurg
Quantitative Social Research
LMU, Sociology

Prof. Dr. Henning Best
Sociology and Social Structure Analysis
RPTU The University of Kaiserslautern Landau

Dr. Christiane Bozoyan
Quantitative Social Research
LMU, Sociology

Prof. Dr. Andreas Diekmann
U Leipzig, Sociology

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