After being 'trolled' by blog

DUB stops collecting data for diversity survey

Illustration: Eveline Schram

The journalistic research into how students and staff experience diversity and inclusion at nineteen higher education institutions in the Netherlands has been put to a halt following a publication by the Dutch blog GeenStijl.

Last Thursday, October 13, the blog published a post titled Non-Binaire Pollfuck! Hogeschool Rotterdam wil even je inclusiviteit meten ("Non-binary pollfuck! The Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences wants to measure your inclusiveness") inviting its readers to fill out the questionnaire themselves.

Each participating university had its own link to the survey. GeenStijl's post featured the link used by the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. However, the other eighteen links were quickly posted in the comment section as well.

Therefore, it is highly likely that many of the answers received after Geen Stijl's post came from people outside the nineteen universities, which compromises the data collection. 

Trustworthiness of the data put into question
Research agency Newcom, which was conducting the survey under a commission by the Association of Editors-in-Chief of Higher Education Media, decided to stop collecting data because, after five days, people are still reacting to GeenStijl's call to answer the survey. The research agency can no longer guarantee the accuracy of the data and, therefore, the quality of the results. A spokesperson for Newcom says: "After taking some time to reflect, we can only advise stopping the data collection from the Diversity Survey immediately. The quality and reliability of the data are paramount for us and, due to what happened last week, we can no longer give a one-hundred-percent guarantee on the accuracy of the data."

The Association of Editors-in-Chief of University Media stands behind this decision. "It is a shame that GeenStijl is torpedoing careful and non-partisan research", says the chair of the association, DUB's editor-in-chief Ries Agterberg. "Learning about the experiences and opinions of students and staff members on this topic was exactly what the survey aimed to do. What do they think about the diversity policies of their universities and universities of applied sciences? That is a legitimate question. It was not our intention to impose any point of view. By having to pull the plug on this survey, we're being deprived of an opportunity to portray these experiences." 

Large-scale research
In consultation with Newcom, it has been decided that the answers provided before the publication of GeenStijl's post will be considered. As for the ones submitted after the publication, they will be scanned for stories from the participating institutions. Agterberg: "We would like to thank all students and staff members who took the time to fill up our questionnaire. All submissions will be checked and the stories shared by students and staff members will be read and processed. These stories have not been shared in vain."

The survey is part of a large-scale research project involving almost all of the independent news media about universities and universities of applied sciences in the Netherlands. The Association of Editors-in-Chief received funding from Stimuleringsfonds voor de Journalistiek (Fund to Stimulate Journalism, Ed) to carry out this research.

In December, all the participating news outlets will still publish the qualitative research results about the diversity policies of the institutions, based on reliable contributions.

Tags: Diversity