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Forum section: an automated database of the European Parliament

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We present an automatically updatable database of background information about Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from 1979 until the present. Although this information is already directly accessible through the European Parliament’s web page, it is presented in a manner that makes it ideal only for those interested in finding information about individual MEPs, but difficult for anyone interested in doing large-N analysis. We provide an online ‘live’ source of background information about MEPs that is tailored towards the need of the latter group. Our web page allows researchers to specify the time period in which they are interested and to obtain data on committee, party group and delegation membership, as well as leadership positions within seconds. As the collection of the data is fully automated, we are able to keep the data updated as long as the European Parliament (EP) continues its current practice of making background information about members available online. Researchers will be able to combine this information with other data sources at a substantively lower cost than is currently the case. As such, we hope to encourage a new generation of research into the EP. The research note is organized as follows. The next section reviews the literature. It highlights how our database may be used to extend the already extensive quantitative literature on the EP. The second section gives the reader an overview of how the technology behind the database works and how to access the information. We leave the technical aspects of the principles behind the data collection scripts to the web appendix. The third section describes the database.

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