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25 years of Centerdata: ‘Online surveys are the future'

Published: 14th June 2022 Last updated: 16th June 2022

How can data help improve the quality of life? Can youth care institutions use data to steer towards a better development of children? Can our decisions about pensions be improved based on data? And how can data help us dealing with loans in a responsible manner? These questions were raised at Centerdata’s 25th anniversary celebration.

Centerdata was established 25 years ago at Tilburg University to develop methods for finding answers to all sorts of questions about people and society. Founder Professor Arie Kapteyn, at the time affiliated with the economics faculty: "In 1997 we started conducting surveys in the CentERpanel. We took over this panel from the University of Amsterdam, then still under the name of Telepanel. It was unique. We had the opportunity to survey some 1,000 households on a wide range of subjects. That made us far ahead of our time.

Arie Kapteyn opent jubileumcongres Centerdata

I am proud to see how Centerdata has grown. On behalf of clients such as the government, universities and other institutions, the institute now carries out online surveys in the LISS panel, where about 5,000 Dutch households answer questions on all kinds of issues in their daily lives. With these online surveys Centerdata really knows how to make a difference.’

Today, Centerdata questions about 5000 Dutch households on a regular basis on all kinds of everyday-life issues - Arie Kapteyn

Value from data

Kapteyn: 'Online surveys are the future, in contrast to telephone and face-to-face interviews. Big data enables us to link the data from our surveys to other information. This gives us even more insight into social themes.’

In 2000, Kapteyn handed over the baton to Marcel Das, the current director of Centerdata. Das: 'We want to create value from data. When we first started, this was uncharted territory. People often asked whether there was a market for scientific data. By now, we have proven this beyond doubt. For us, social commitment is key.’

Lonneke van de Poll, Professor of Cancer Epidemiology and Survival at Tilburg University and group leader at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, collaborates with Centerdata for the collection and interpretation of data. During the conference, she explains how the gained insights contribute to improvements in patient care and support. Everyone in the Netherlands who has (had) cancer is registered in the cancer registration system. These people can participate in Profiles, a study that Van de Poll set up with colleagues. Centerdata provides the technical infrastructure and collects data in a norm population for comparison. ‘The project is unique in the world and provides interesting information. For example, we can see that fatigue that 60-year-old female cancer patients who participate in Profiles suffer from differs from fatigue of healthy Dutch 60-year-old women, as measured in the LISS panel.’

Centerdata provides the technical infrastructure for the Profiles study; a unique registration system that maps quality of life of (ex) cancer patients - Lonneke van der Poll

Insights in financial decisions

Marike Knoef, Professor of Empirical Microeconomics at Leiden University, Director of the Netspar knowledge network at Tilburg University and also Deputy Crown Member of the SER, started her career at Centerdata in 2006. In her presentation, she showed the indispensability of data for a healthy financial future.

Marike Knoef door fotograaf Don Wijns

Ageing, the flexible labour market and large differences in health between people are trends that call for a different pension policy, for instance. Data also show whether people are saving too much or too little. Knoef: 'The LISS panel has contributed a lot to insights into financial decisions. We now know that the state of the household budget is strongly related to health, stress and relationships, especially in case of a divorce.’

Using data from Centerdata's LISS panel, we see how the state of one's household book is strongly related to health, stress and even relationships - Marike Knoef

Social innovation: helping families

Lian Smits, director of Strong Home (Sterk Huis) West-Brabant, works together with Patricia Prüfer, head of Policy Research and Analysis of Centerdata, in the Smart Start project. This project uses data science to find the best chances for children for a good future. The composition of neighborhoods and potential risks are uncovered at an early stage, enabling prevention in the form of tailor-made help. Smits: ‘If a supermarket knows what I am going to buy, then we should also be able to predict in which neighborhoods problems will arise. And it has turned out that it is possible to make these predictions. With this project, we can prevent problems from getting worse.’

If a supermarket knows what I am going to buy, surely we should be able to predict in which neighborhoods problems will arise - Lian Smits

Patricia Prüfer: 'With this social innovation, we are no longer fighting a running battle. Data about domestic violence and child abuse in a neighbourhood provide objective and substantiated information about where problems are to be expected and helps us take early action. That is how we help families.’


With objective data on domestic violence and child abuse, we can enable positive direction and help families - Patricia Prüfer

Arjan Vliegenthart, director of the Dutch National Institute for Budget Education (NIBUD), uses data to advise the Dutch population on how to keep track of household finances. The joint research with Centerdata, shows that the choices people make depend on the way financial information is presented. It would be helpful, for example, if mortgage advisers would not immediately state the maximum mortgage amount in a conversation with clients, but first gain more insight into the clients’ financial situation. People will then choose a more responsible mortgage amount. Vliegenthart: 'You can do good and bad things with numbers and data. Data matter if you want to help people. They can help people to make financially more sensible choices.’

Data matters if you want to help people - Arjen Vliegenthart, Nibud

Do you want to know more?

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Or contact Patricia Prüfer, head of Policy Research and Analysis at Centerdata, +31 (0)13 206 35 33, +31 (0)6 1562 6647, email:, or Marcel Das, managing director Centerdata,  +31 (0)13 206 35  00,  email: