ISEED – Inclusive Science and European Democracies, is an international research project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (2021-2024). ISEED responds to the EU’s call for supporting inclusive, innovative and reflective societies in Europe, specifically by “Developing deliberative and participatory democracies through experimentation”. You can read more about this call here.
ISEED, coordinated by Ca’ Foscari University of Venice joins researchers from Italy, France, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Bulgaria, Uruguay and the United Kingdom for the next 3 years to learn lessons from citizen science engagement projects in order to understand how to involve citizens in democratic deliberation.
We face a crisis in democratic ideals in Europe. Societal challenges such as responding to national and international financial crises and to the COVID crisis stimulate public scepticism and can at its worst lead to feelings of powerlessness and disengagement with political process and democracy in Europe. Coupled with the rise of extremist, alt-right, exclusionist discourses and politics, such crises threaten European democratic values like inclusion, participation and diversity in public deliberation and political action in Europe. The question ISEED explores is:
What means do we have, besides political representation, to inspire and invite the people of Europe to actively participate and contribute to the knowledge-based democratic governance of Europe?
Our idea in ISEED is to explore modes to engage citizens, and non-citizens, in knowledge-based public deliberation by using lessons derived from the field of citizen science. Citizen science works by inviting and including non-scientists in the collection and production of scientific knowledge. You can find some citizen science projects here, for example using penguin-watching, or recording whale vocalisations, to understand these animal populations.
ISEED analyses cases of successful citizen science to explore what conditions can ensure people’s informed inclusion and participation in creating knowledge-based democratic deliberation. Our insight is applied to cases of public debate on science-based issues, for example climate change or vaccination programmes, paying attention to publics traditionally included but also to counter-publics marginalised in these debates.
As an interdisciplinary project, ISEED uses a range of empirical methods and academic approaches to understand what makes for inclusive, knowledge-based deliberation in Europe. We combine theoretical analysis, in philosophy and the social sciences, with empirical research, using qualitative approaches such as discourse analysis, interviews and focus groups, but also digital text analysis and tool development. One of the key outputs of ISEED is a computational tool that can describe styles of argumentation in traditional and digital media, paying attention to the role of emotion and reason in polarised debates. Working with communities we will also run small-scale experiments to test our ideas.
ISEED maps and explores how inclusive science can support European democracies.