Stanford PACS: New Study Uses Crowdsourcing To Strengthen American Democracy
PALO ALTO, Calif .– (COMMERCIAL THREAD) – Americans have always disagreed about politics, but now the levels of undemocratic attitudes, support for partisan violence and partisan animosity have reached worrying levels. While there are many ideas for solving these problems, they have never been put together, tested, and evaluated as part of a unified effort. To fill this gap, the Stanford Polarization and Social Change Lab is launching a major new initiative. The Strengthening Democracy Challenge will collect and rigorously test up to 25 interventions to reduce undemocratic attitudes, support for partisan violence and partisan animosity in a massive online experiment with up to 30,000 participants. Interventions can be made by academics, practitioners, or others interested in strengthening democratic principles in the United States. Researchers organizing the challenge – a multidisciplinary team made up of members from Stanford, MIT, Northwestern, and Columbia universities – believe crowdsourcing ideas, combined with the rigor of large-scale experimentation, can help solve such important problems. and complex as these.
“Undemocratic attitudes and support for political violence are at alarming levels in the United States. We know that partisan animosity has been increasing for years and may play a role in the worrying anti-democratic attitudes we see, ”said Robb Willer, director of the Polarization and Social Change Lab and professor of sociology at Stanford. “We see this project as a chance to identify effective interventions, and also to deepen our understanding of the forces that shape these political sentiments.
“There are many potential ways to reduce anti-democratic attitudes, support for partisan violence and partisan animosity. We designed our project to achieve goals beyond the scale of typical scientific studies, ”said Jan Voelkel, a Ph.D. student at Stanford and one of the challenge co-organizers. “The Democracy Building Challenge assesses the relative effectiveness of different interventions, provides a high-quality testing opportunity for academics and practitioners who may not currently have access to it, unifies the knowledge currently dispersed across different social sciences and practitioners, and is committed to producing impartial and comprehensive reports. results.
The team organizing the challenge includes researchers in political science, psychology, sociology and economics. They will work closely with practitioners to ensure that the challenge is accessible not only to academics, but also to contributors from nonprofit and advocacy groups beyond academia working on these issues. They plan to crowdsource the interventions and evaluate them scientifically in one of the largest investigative experiments ever conducted.
“Our lab has done a lot of work on these results, but we believe that the most effective way to identify promising interventions is to collect ideas from as large a community of thinkers as possible, and not just academics. So we launched this project, our first mass collaboration project, to intensify our collaborative efforts with colleagues from different fields and practitioners, ”explained Willer. “We have been inspired by other mass collaboration projects, such as the classic Axelrod Prisoner Dilemma Tournament, the Fragile Families Challenge and the Open Science Collaborations. Crowdsourcing promising ideas and then testing them in parallel is a compelling model for effectively generating a lot of knowledge, ”says Willer.
Researchers from diverse backgrounds and perspectives are invited to submit papers. The proposed interventions should be short, achievable in an online form and follow the ethical guidelines of the challenge. Academic and practitioner experts will evaluate the submissions and an editorial board will select the top 25 submissions to test, taking into account the novelty and expected success of the ideas. Co-organizers of the challenge include James Druckman, Payson S. Wild professor of political science at Northwestern University; David Rand, Professor Erwin H. Schell and Professor of Management and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT; James Chu, assistant professor of sociology at Columbia University; and Nick Stagnaro, postdoctoral fellow at MIT. The organizing team is supported by Chrystal Redekopp, Joe Mernyk and Sophia Pink from Polarization and Social Change Lab.
Study participants will be a large sample of up to 30,000 self-identified Republicans and Democrats, nationally representative on several major demographic criteria.
“The challenge offers participants a number of reasons to participate, most importantly the opportunity to work on these pressing social issues,” said Willer.
Contributors to interventions selected for testing will learn if their idea worked, receive academic authorship, and be recognized at a conference hosted by the Stanford PACS Polarization and Social Change Lab, The Health Project civic and the Fetzer Institute. . At this conference, the results of the Strengthening Democracy Challenge will be presented publicly. A cash prize of up to $ 15,000 will be distributed among teams submitting interventions that significantly reduce anti-democratic attitudes; the same amount will be distributed among teams submitting interventions that significantly reduce support for partisan violence, and a further prize of up to $ 15,000 will be awarded to those whose interventions significantly reduce partisan animosity.
The Strengthening Democracy Challenge is supported by the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford, the Civic Health Project, and the Fetzer Institute. To learn more about the challenge, visit a full website for guidelines, a submission manual, links to apply, and contact for any questions before and during the submission.
Written by Djurdja Jovanovic Padejski
Head of Digital Engagement, Stanford PACS