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prof. dr. Eva-Maria Merz

Full Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, Sociology

Full Professor, Research Programmes - Social Sciences, Civil Society and Philantropy (CSPh)

Personal information

Eva-Maria Merz is a social scientist with a background in family studies and demography. She combines her theoretical and applied expertise within the topic of (blood) donor behaviour in order to study donor life-courses and the influence of personal and social network characteristics on donor behaviour.

Donating substances of human origin, a very specific type of pro-social behaviour, is a complex and dynamic act that is determined by individual and social characteristics. My own passion for this subject stems from my scientific involvement with different types of prosocial behaviour, for example family care, and my fascination with public health and medical care issues. After having finished a Bachelor in Medicine, I became aware of the very importance of social relationships, networks and life-course elements that influence health and prosocial behaviour. This led me to obtain a Master’s degree in Social Sciences and a PhD in Developmental Psychology. I now combine my multidisciplinary orientation within the scientific and societally pressing topic of donor behaviour. My research benefits from my theoretical expertise in social science theories on prosocial behaviour and my fruitful collaborations within the Dutch Blood Bank and the Netherlands Association of Donor Medicine. Combining insights from social and health sciences will set the stage for a comprehensive and innovative view on donor behaviour to ultimately improve health care.


Blood products, given by donors are of utmost importance for patient care. Demographic change, increased longevity, and decreasing donor numbers put pressure on the blood supply. Hence, effective recruitment and retention is crucial to safeguard sufficient donor availability. Therefore, we need to understand why and when individuals donate blood. Within our group we try to shed light on this intriguing question. Donating blood is costly, requiring time, knowledge and health resources. Various groups of factors, including demographic (e.g. sex), psychosocial (e.g. trust, anxiety), and biological (e.g. genes, hormones) ones have been proposed to explain donor behavior. Besides, economic mechanisms (e.g. reciprocity--helping because you have been helped) and heritability (from twin studies) have been offered. Departing from theories about pro-social behaviour including altruism, and economic mechanisms, we examine determinants of becoming and remaining a donor across the life course. Thereby, we include, psychological, social and biological donor characteristics as well as donor networks and geographical and cultural context.

Prizes and Awards

2017    VU Faculty of Social Sciences Wilhelmina Drucker Talent Award Early Career (€ 1.500)

2014    Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) Aspasia Talent Grant (€ 200.000)

2012    European Society on Family Relations (ESFR) Young Scientist Award 


2021 ZonMW PSIDER programme grant Treating Hereditary Anemias Through Stem Cell Research (TRACER) (€ ~300.000)

2021 PPO Sanquin Research Grant Learning to Donate (LEARN-DO) (€ 509.000)

2020 PPO Sanquin Research Grant Plasma Only Please: Evaluation for improving recruitment and retention of plasma-only donors (POP) (€ 277.000)

2020 PPO Sanquin Research Grant Striving Towards Big Data Resources and Precision Donor Care - the Dutch Donor Cohort (DuDoCo) (€ 868.000)

2018 ERC Starting Grant Who Gives Life? Understanding, Explaining and Predicting Donor Behavior (€ 1.272,500)

2018 PPO Sanquin Research Grant Social Media and Blood Donor Behavior: New Ways of Effective Communication (€ 438.000)

2017 PPO Sanquin Research Grant Managing Donor Deferral: Preventing Donor Loss (€ 70.000)

2016 Research Collaboration Grant  CHICAGO STUDY “Donor motivation in the general  population” University of Chicago (€ 12.000)

2016 3rd Health Program of the European Commission – Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency Grant TRANSPOSE. Transfusion and Transplantation: Protection and Selection of Donors (€ 549.479)

2015 PPO Sanquin Research Grant  Donor Careers. The Influence of Individual, Network and Contextual Factors on Donor Behaviour (€ 304.000)

2015 PPO Sanquin Research Grant Facilitators and Barriers for RhD-Immunised Women to Become and Remain Anti-D Donor (€ 67.000)

2014 Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) Aspasia Grant to promote female academics  to senior lecturer level (€ 200.000)

2009 NWO Longitudinal Survey and Panel Funding for Wave 3 of the Netherlands Kinship Panel Study (NKPS) (€ 245.000)





Ancillary activities
  • Sanquin Research | Amsterdam | Medewerker | 2017-09-12 - present

Ancillary activities are updated daily

prof. dr. Eva-Maria Merz


  • H Social Sciences, Prosocial Behaviour, Blood Donation, Donor Motivation