Security, perceptions, reports, conditions and expectations – Monitoring Security in Germany

BaSiD (Barometer of Security in Germany)

The research project intends to create a barometer to measure objective and subjective security in Germany. Because ‘security’ is a complex, emotional, and normatively charged term, the BaSiD (Barometer of Security in Germany) will adopt an interdisciplinary approach to study its various layers. Representatives from the academic disciplines of sociology, criminology, media and communication studies, psychology, law and ethics will participate in the project. [Deutsch]

Project category: Research project
Organisational status: Departmental project
Project time frame: Beginning of project: 2010
Status of Project: ongoing
Project language(s): German

Head(s) of project

Contributors / Researchers

Project description:

The research project will monitor and analyze perceptions, reports, conditions, and expectations that relate to the notion of security. The project will address a range of security associated phenomena, for example, crime, terrorism, natural catastrophes, and major man-made disasters. Furthermore, traditional perceptions of security will also be considered in light of other, less conventional dimensions, such as social and economic security.
The project will rely on a combination of basic data collection, methodology development, and application orientated group analysis. It is hoped that the design and results of the project will provide a basis for further academic research in the field. The project has the potential to help develop a ‘Theory of (in)security’ that can be expanded on through supplementary studies. The methods employed are designed to add to the European research landscape; indeed, it is intended that the proposed ‘Security Barometer’ will be able to be used to determine and measure broad, long-term security trends, and thereby aid in a variety of criminal, social, and educational policy making decisions.

The research project began in mid-2010 and is scheduled to last for three years. The project is led by the

  • Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law

The project partners are the

  • Bundeskriminalamt (Federal Criminal Police Office), Criminalistic-Criminological Research and Advice
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research
  • Institute of Sociology, University of Freiburg
  • International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities, University of Tübingen
  • Disaster Research Unit (DRU), Freie Universität Berlin
  • Institute for Communication and Media Studies, University of Düsseldorf

Security will be measured on three distinct levels: 1. Individual level; 2. Objective structural level; 3. Communication level. The figure below illustrates how the nine proposed research modules fit within these three levels:

Figure: Conception of the research project

Module 1 will incorporate a theoretical pre-assessment of the term ‘security’ by the International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities at the University of Tübingen. This will be done in an attempt to highlight the epistemological difference between subjective and objective perceptions of security.

In Module 2, the nature of possible ‘security situations’ will be examined by the Federal Criminal Police Office and the Disaster Research Unit (DRU). To this end, a systematic compilation of data on major accidents, natural disasters, terrorism and crime in Germany will occur. In addition, a social index for the measurement of catastrophic risks will be developed to enable geo-referenced statements to be made on vulnerable regions and social structures.

Subjective perceptions and assessments of (in)security shall be examined in Module 3. The module is comprised of two interrelated sub-modules. Under the direction of the Institute of Sociology at the University of Freiburg, Module 3.1 will conduct an explorative study with, for the most part, an open set of methods at its disposal. In Module 3.2, the Max Planck Institute will be responsible for the conceptualization, realization and analysis of a representative population survey on feelings of security. The main goals of the module are to determine the ‘real world’ and biographical importance of security issues, and to obtain a representative picture of the subjective perception of insecurities and risks amongst the broader German population.

In Module 4 the Criminalistic-Criminological Research and Advice of the Federal Criminal Police Office will contribute information through a study on the dark figure of crime, that is, an assessment of unreported or undiscovered crime. It is hoped that objective data on individually perceived in(security) will thereby be obtained. The Max Planck Institute will also be involved in this endeavor.

Module 5 will see the Disaster Research Unit (DRU) at the Freie Universität Berlin investigate the attributes of risk, including how dangers and risks are influenced by environmental and psychological conditions. On the one hand, criteria for the classification of (in)secure spaces will be identified. On the other hand, the underestimation of dangers will also be assessed. The latter will include a field study in the cities of Hamburg and Kiel where the opinions of laypersons on danger and risk will be compared with those expressed by various officials, including representatives from the police, fire department, and social services.

Module 6 is concerned with the (in)security expectations of new technologies. The Institute of Sociology at the University of Freiburg and the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research will question the effects between processes of technologization and perceptions of (in)security, including a structural description of the performance expectations of new technology. A number of planned workshops will assess how greater transparency can be applied to technological civil security innovations.

Conducted by the Institute for Media and Communication Studies at the University of Düsseldorf, Module 7 shall seek to determine how security threats, perceptions, and expectations are expressed by the German media. This media analysis will refer to all facets of the German media spectrum, from daily national tabloids through to online forums.

Module 8 will incorporate supporting research provided by the International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities at the University of Tübingen. Information on the development of survey items, interviews, analyses, and the compilation of results will be presented from the viewpoint of applied ethics. Ethical guidelines for good scientific practice in the context of ongoing security monitoring will also be covered.

In Module 9 the Max Planck Institute will conduct a cross-sectional analysis of the main conclusions from Modules 1-8 in order to not just summarize the research project’s findings, but also to create a Security Barometer capable of monitoring objective and subjective security in Germany.

Information about societal perception and awareness of security will be collected through qualitative and quantitative surveys, on-site investigations, and a media analysis. The expectations placed on current and future security technologies will also be evaluated. It is intended that the research project will not only develop indicators to measure feelings of security, but also go beyond in an attempt to provide explanations for the construction of objective and subjective security perceptions. The combination of old and new survey tools should enable a further refinement of the methods used to detect and measure perceived security, which should in turn facilitate the creation of reference points for the further development of security solutions.


The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany.
  • Last update: 14 December 2017
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