Frequently Asked Questions Frequently Asked Questions

Why a study of the General Secretariat of the Council?

The GSC is an important part of the EU civil service, but relatively little is known about what it does or the people who work for it. The idea behind the project, which is supported by the Secretary General, is to increase understanding of the organization and its personnel. The study will examine the educational and professional backgrounds of staff, their career trajectories, beliefs, values and attitudes, their experience of the GSC as a workplace and their views on the working culture of the GSC.

Who are you?

The research team includes specialist EU scholars from Universities in France, Germany, Italy and the UK, and is led by Professor Hussein Kassim, UEA and Professor Sara Connolly, UEA. They are: Professor Michael Bauer, German University of Administrative Sciences, Speyer, Professor Renaud Dehousse, Centre d’Etudes Européennes, Sciences Po. Paris, Professor Brigid Laffan, European University Institute Florence and Professor Andrew Thompson, University of Edinburgh. 
All members of the current research team -- with the exception of Professor Laffan -- were involved in two similar survey-based projects on the European Commission: The European Commission in Question; and the European Commission: Facing the Future.

Why an online survey?

An online survey is an efficient, flexible and versatile research instrument. It enables researchers to reach a large number of respondents, to secure a genuinely representative sample, and to collate responses quickly. It permits respondents to complete the survey at a time of their convenience, to resume the survey if they are interrupted, and to submit the finished survey with a simple click of the keyboard button. It is also safe and secure.

Who has been asked to complete the online survey?

The online survey has been circulated to all personnel in the GSC.

Has the survey been tested?

Yes, the survey has been piloted. It is long and wide-ranging, but piloting confirms that it can be completed in 30 minutes.

Why should I complete the online survey?

We appreciate that completing the online survey takes time, but there are three reasons why we would urge you to spend the 20-30 minutes that it should take. First, we want the picture of the GSC that we present in our publications to be genuinely representative of the organization and the people who work for it. Second, the higher the response rate, the greater the statistical power of the survey and the more robust the findings that we ultimately report. Third, the survey offers an opportunity for everybody in the GSC to describe their experiences and express their views.

How will the data be collected and stored?

The survey will be conducted using Qualtrics software and the responses analysed in SPSS v22. The raw survey data will be anonymised and stored (and backed-up) by Qualtrics in their EU data centres in Ireland for the duration of the data collection. All data held by Qualtrics will be destroyed at the end of this phase of the project. Anonymised data which is downloaded for analysis will be password protected and encrypted. Data will be stored on the University centrally managed facilities backed up on a 24hr basis with access restricted to authorised individuals only. Click here to see our Data Management Plan

How will the data be used?

The data collected from the survey will be analysed for scientific purposes. It will be used to inform a series of articles on aspects of the GSC to be submitted to top academic journals in political science, public management, business studies, EU studies and personnel management, as well as a book on the EU administration. We will also prepare a report, informed by the data, that we will submit to senior management.

Will my responses be anonymous?

Absolutely. You can answer the survey with our full assurance that your personal data will not be disclosed and that your anonymity is guaranteed. The data will only be reported in aggregate form, so it will not be possible to identify individual respondents in any of the publications that report the findings. Click here to see our Data Management Plan.

What if I agree to participate in the follow-up interviews?

Your anonymity is guaranteed. Although we will cite comments from interviews, it will not be possible to identify the individuals concerned in the published work. Where quotations from interviews are included in any text, the attribution will be no more specific than the following: ‘as one Senior Manager remarked . . . ‘, ‘a head of unit from a smaller member state commented . . .’, etc.

How will confidentiality be protected?

Confidentiality will be protected in several ways. First, the project will comply with the UK Data Protection Act, which implements the EU Directive on Data Protection. Second, all members of the research team have signed a confidentiality agreement, in which they have undertaken to respect the anonymity of respondents, to use the data to inform the preparation of academic articles and a book on the EU administration only, and not to share the data with, or to show to, any unauthorised individuals or parties. Third, the responses to the survey will only be viewed by the two statistical specialists members of the research team -- Professor Sara Connolly and Professor Andy Thompson-- and by Qualtrics, the survey software providers. Fourth, although the team will be open to requests from researchers for specific information, it will not share the dataset with other individuals or parties. Fifth, all information gathered is subject to a request submitted pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Any personal data obtained by the research team will be exempt under release from the Freedom of Information Act. All other data received will be exempted on the grounds that it was obtained in confidence. Click here to see our Data Management Plan.

Who will have access to the dataset?

Access to the dataset will be restricted to authorised individuals and their researchers only: Professor Hussein Kassim, UEA, Professor Sara Connolly, UEA, Professor Michael Bauer, German University of Administrative Sciences, Speyer, Professor Renaud Dehousse, Centre d’Etudes Européennes, Sciences Po. Paris, Professor Brigid Laffan, European University Institute Florence and Professor Andrew Thompson, University of Edinburgh.

What is your data protection policy?

Our data protection policy is set out in out Data Management Plan. The Plan has been approved by the Data Protection Unit of the General Secretariat of the Council and by the University of East Anglia's Ethics Committee. The software for the online survey is provided by Qualtrics. Please click here for the Qualtrics Security White Paper.

Who is funding the research? 

The fieldwork is funded by the Universities at which we are based. They are: the University of East Anglia; the German University of Administrative Sciences, Speyer; Sciences Po. Paris; the European University Institute Florence; and the University of Edinburgh. 

How can I find out about the results of the study?

We will create a project website once the online survey has closed, where we will post information and news about the project. In due course, key findings will be presented in policy briefings that can be downloaded from the project website. We also plan dissemination events in Brussels, where we will present and overview of our findings. Details will be posted on the project website.

Further questions

You are invited to contact us by email gsc.ppl@uea.ac.uk or to leave a voicemail on the project hotline +44 (0) 1603 593626 if you have any questions or queries concerning the research.