MESSFurther implementation and development of the MESS Project

Contact details:

Prof.dr. J.W.M. Das
Warandelaan 2 5037 AB Tilburg

The MESS project facilitates data collection across disciplines in the social and life sciences. It offers researchers a state-of-the-art environment for collecting data — including biomarkers and physical and social activity — and conducting innovative experiments. The facility is open to the global scientific community. Data are freely available for academic researchers. Core element is a representative Internet panel of 8,000 individuals: the LISS panel. Data are collected monthly through surveys, experiments, and innovative devices, e.g. smartphones, biomarkers. MESS positions Dutch social scientists at the forefront of the field and forms the hub of an international network of advanced data collection efforts

In 2006, the Advanced Multi-Disciplinary Facility for Measurement and Experimentation in the Social Sciences (MESS) was started as one of five large research infrastructures funded by the Dutch government. MESS is an innovative data collection facility intended to boost and integrate research in various disciplines, such as social sciences, life sciences, and behavioral sciences. The central resource of the facility, the Longitudinal Internet Studies for the Social sciences (LISS) panel, is a representative panel of about 8,000 individuals, based on a probability sample drawn by Statistics Netherlands from population registers. Respondents answer interviews over the Internet monthly. Households that could not otherwise participate are given a computer and broadband Internet access. Other key elements of the MESS project are:
(1) a longitudinal core questionnaire and experimental modules proposed by researchers from all over the world. The core questionnaire, designed with assistance from international experts in the relevant fields, contains questions on topics such as health, work, income, education, ethnicity, political opinion, values, norms, and personality. Designed to follow changes over the life course of individuals and households, it is repeated annually.
(2) innovative forms of data collection. Besides traditional questionnaires, the facility accommodates innovative ways of asking survey questions, e.g., exploiting visual tools on the screen or collecting data in other ways than through survey questions. This includes various new communication and measurement devices like smartphones with GPS, as well as devices to measure biomarkers such as weight, bioelectrical impedance, physical activity levels, and blood pressure. These tools allow for much more accurate and cost-effective measurement and experimentation in large representative samples than was possible in the past, leading to richer and better data on many domains of people’s lives.
(3) linking with administrative data. Administrative data on, for example, income, assets, and pensions archived at Statistics Netherlands can be linked with LISS panel data. Statistics Netherlands provides a remote access facility through which the linked data can be used.
Powerful elements of MESS are its open access and its population representativeness, providing an environment for cross-disciplinary studies and experiments on a wide array of topics and using advanced measurement devices. Most respondents have been followed since 2007, and rich background information on many aspects of their lives is collected or updated each year and made available free of charge when conducting new studies or experiments.
MESS provides high-quality longitudinal data for research within and across many disciplines, and opens doors to new research breakthroughs on the challenges of societal developments. Dutch society is currently experiencing a number of significant trends, with a host of attendant challenges, such as an aging population, health disparities, immigrant population, financial volatility, and changing work patterns. The MESS facility plays an important role in addressing these challenges. Sound policy that will positively shape the future of the Netherlands and its citizens will depend on high-quality research in the social sciences that can inform decisionmaking, both in government and in industry.

Connection to strategic developments
Sociale en culturele innovatie