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How We Work

Our work is characterised by five interlocking attributes. Academic stringency comes first, and our work is multi-perspectival. We enjoy independence in our selection of topics and methods, and follow our own assessments of political relevance. Personal consultations are generally confidential. The five attributes in detail:

Academic stringency
Our policy advice is based on the work of our staff of about 70 researchers. They conduct an intense academic exchange within the organisation and with colleagues at other research institutes in Germany and internationally. Every three years the SWP Council approves our Research Framework setting out our principal fields of interest in broad terms. On that basis, our research agenda emerges in a process of continuous reflection and discussion within the Institute, in international research collaborations and with political decision-makers – always responsive to the latest developments in international politics. Our publications are subject to a stringent quality control process built around internal peer review. Our Advisory Board provides recommendations on research planning and quality control.

Our research and policy advice is independent. We are beholden to no political party or other institution, and to no programme or interest group. We set our own research priorities and avoid prejudging outcomes. We do not take research commissions. Our institutional funding from the federal budget guarantees us independence within the scope of our statutory purpose, namely research to underpin policy advice. We apply for additional external funding only where it fits well with our research agenda. Our oversight body, the SWP Council, is composed of three groups: one representative from each of the parties in the Bundestag; a government contingent with senior ministerial representatives; and members representing public life and academia. None of the contingents has a majority on its own – and elections require a two-thirds majority – so the representatives and groups have to cooperate.

Multiple perspectives and pluralism
With about seventy researchers on our staff we possess broad regional and thematic expertise, enabling us to bring together diverse perspectives. Our researchers may hold different and even opposing views. The Institute itself puts forward no opinions or statements on political issues.

Policy relevance
Our research is policy- and also action-oriented. Our analyses and knowledge transfers focus on problems and questions that are – or should be – relevant for the German Bundestag and government. The objective is to feed our expertise into their evaluation and decision-making processes, as well as discussing options, implications and scenarios. We naturally incorporate the findings of basic research into our work, and collaborate with university researchers.

SWP is a venue for exchange and communication between researchers and politicians, a place where decision-makers can discuss tricky questions with our researchers and air ideas in a setting of trust and confidentiality. SWP meetings are by invitation only and generally held under the Chatham House rule. Our publications, website and social media circulate our research findings to a broader audience and promote exchange with academic colleagues.