Automating the Analysis of Online Deliberation? Comparing computational analyses of polarized discussions on climate change to established content analysis

Paper by Lisa Oswald: “High­-quality discussions can help people acquire an adequate understanding of issues and alleviate mechanisms of opinion polarization. However, the extent to which the quality of the online public discourse contributes is contested. Facing the importance and the sheer volume of online discussions, reliable computational approaches to assess the deliberative quality of online discussions at scale would open a new era of deliberation research. But is it possible to automate the assessment of deliberative quality? I compare structural features of discussion threads and sim­ple text­-based measures to established manual content analysis by applying all measures to online discussions on ‘Reddit’ that deal with the 2020 wildfires in Australia and California. I further com­ pare discussions between two ideologically opposite online communities, one featuring discussions in line with the scientific consensus and one featuring climate change skepticism. While no single computational measure can capture the multidimensional concept of deliberative quality, I find that (1) measures of structural complexity capture engagement and participation as preconditions for deliberation, (2) the length of comments is correlated with manual measures of argumentation, and (3) automated toxicity scores are correlated with manual measures of respect. While the presented computational approaches cannot replace in­depth content coding, the findings imply that selected automated measures can be useful, scalable additions to the measurement repertoire for specific dimensions of online deliberation. I discuss implications for communication research and platform regulation and suggest interdisciplinary research to synthesize past content coding efforts using machine learning….(More)”.

In potentially seismic shift, Government could release almost all advice to ministers

Article by Henry Cooke: (New Zealand) “The Government is considering proactively releasing almost all advice to ministers under a planned shakeup to transparency rules, which, if made, would amount to a seismic shift in the way the public sector communicates.

Open government advocates have cautiously welcomed the planned move, but say the devil will be in the detail – as the proactive release regime could end up defanging the Official Information Act (OIA).

The Public Service Commission is consulting with government departments and agencies on a proposal to release to the public all briefings and other advice given to ministers – unless there is a compelling reason not to, such as national security or breaching a commercial agreement, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions.

Currently, the Government proactively releases all Cabinet papers within 30 working days of a decision being made, but it does not release the advice that underpins those decisions. The Cabinet papers can also be redacted entirely or in part if the Government believes there is a good reason to do so.

Some advice is proactively released by individual agencies but there is no uniform rule declaring it or any centralised depository. In practice, much of it is released after either the media or opposition requests a copy under the OIA.

The new regime would see all ministerial advice be released without waiting to be asked for it, although it is not clear on what timeframe.

Ministers would also have to proactively release the titles of their briefings on a regular basis, meaning any advice that was not released could be requested under the OIA.

The Public Service Commission – which oversees the sprawling public sector – is also exploring options for a single point of access for these documents, instead of it being spread over many different websites….(More)”.

How does research data generate societal impact?

Blog by Eric Jensen and Mark Reed: “Managing data isn’t exciting and it can feel like a hassle to deposit data at the end of a project, when you want to focus on publishing your findings.

But if you want your research to have impact, paying attention to data could make a big difference, according to new research we published recently in the journal PLOS ONE.

We analysed case studies from the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise in 2014 to show how data analysis and curation can generate benefits for policy and practice, and sought to understand the pathways through which data typically leads to impact. In this series of blog posts we will unpack this research and show you how you can manage your data for impact.

We were commissioned by the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) to investigate how research data contributes to demonstrable non-academic benefits to society from research, drawing on existing impact case studies from the REF. We then analyzed case studies from the Australian Research Council (ARC) Engagement and Impact Assessment 2018, a similar exercise to the UK’s…

The most prevalent type of research data-driven impact was benefits for professional practice (45% UK; 44% Australia).

This category of impact includes changing the ways professionals operate and improving the quality of products or services through better methods, technologies, and responses to issues through better understanding. It also includes changing organisational culture and improving workplace productivity or outcomes.

Government impacts were the next most prevalent category identified in this research (21% UK; 20% Australia).

These impacts include the introduction of new policies and changes to existing policies, as well as

  • reducing the cost to deliver government services
  • enhancing the effectiveness or efficiency of government services and operations
  • more efficient government planning

Other relatively common types of research data-driven impacts were economic impact (13% UK; 14% Australia) and public health impacts (10% UK; 8% Australia)…(More)”.

A participatory approach for empowering community engagement in data governance: The Monash Net Zero Precinct

Paper by Darren Sharp et al: “Data governance is an emerging field of study concerned with how a range of actors can successfully manage data assets according to rules of engagement, decision rights, and accountabilities. Urban studies scholarship has continued to demonstrate and criticize lack of community engagement in smart city development and urban data governance projects, including in local sustainability initiatives. However, few move beyond critique to unpack in more detail what community engagement should look like. To overcome this gap, we develop and test a participatory methodology to identify approaches to empowering community engagement in data governance in the context of the Monash Net Zero Precinct in Melbourne, Australia. Our approach uses design for social innovation to enable a small group of “precinct citizens” to co-design prototypes and multicriteria mapping as a participatory appraisal method to open up and reveal a diversity of perspectives and uncertainties on data governance approaches. The findings reveal the importance of creating deliberative spaces for pluralising community engagement in data governance that consider the diverse values and interests of precinct citizens. This research points toward new ways to conceptualize and design enabling processes of community engagement in data governance and reflects on implementation strategies attuned to the politics of participation to support the embedding of these innovations within specific socio-institutional contexts….(More)”.

The new machinery of government: using machine technology in administrative decision-making

Report by New South Wales Ombudsman: “There are many situations in which government agencies could use appropriately-designed machine technologies to assist in the exercise of their functions, which would be compatible with lawful and appropriate conduct. Indeed, in some instances machine technology may improve aspects of good administrative conduct – such as accuracy and consistency in decision-making, as well as mitigating the risk of individual human bias.

However, if machine technology is designed and used in a way that does not accord with administrative law and associated principles of good administrative practice, then its use could constitute or involve maladministration. It could also result in legal challenges, including a risk that administrative decisions or actions may later be held by a court to have been unlawful or invalid.

The New South Wales Ombudsman was prompted to prepare this report after becoming aware of one agency (Revenue NSW) using machine technology for the performance of a discretionary statutory function (the garnisheeing of unpaid fine debts from individuals’ bank accounts), in a way that was having a significant impact on individuals, many of whom were already in situations of financial vulnerability.

The Ombudsman’s experience with Revenue NSW, and a scan of the government’s published policies on the use of artificial intelligence and other digital technologies, suggests that there may be inadequate attention being given to fundamental aspects of public law that are relevant to machine technology adoption….(More)”

Data trust and data privacy in the COVID-19 period

Paper by Nicholas Biddle et al: “In this article, we focus on data trust and data privacy, and how attitudes may be changing during the COVID-19 period. On balance, it appears that Australians are more trusting of organizations with regards to data privacy and less concerned about their own personal information and data than they were prior to the spread of COVID-19. The major determinant of this change in trust with regards to data was changes in general confidence in government institutions. Despite this improvement in trust with regards to data privacy, trust levels are still low….(More)”.

The State of Open Data 2021

Report by Digital Science (Australia): “Since 2016, we have monitored levels of data sharing and usage. Over the years, we have had 21,000 responses from researchers worldwide providing unparalleled insight into their motivations, challenges, perceptions, and behaviours toward open data.

In our sixth survey, we asked about motivations as well as perceived discoverability and credibility of data that is shared openly. The State of Open Data is a critical piece of information that enables us to identify the barriers to open data from a researcher perspective, laying the foundation for future action. 

Key findings from this year’s survey

  • 73% support the idea of a national mandate for making research data openly available
  • 52% said funders should make the sharing of research data part of their requirements for awarding grants
  • 47% said they would be motivated to share their data if there was a journal or publisher requirement to do so
  • About a third of respondents indicated that they have reused their own or someone else’s openly accessible data more during the pandemic than before
  • There are growing concerns over misuse and lack of credit for open sharing…(More)”

‘Anyway, the dashboard is dead’: On trying to build urban informatics

Paper by Jathan Sadowski: “How do the idealised promises and purposes of urban informatics compare to the material politics and practices of their implementation? To answer this question, I ethnographically trace the development of two data dashboards by strategic planners in an Australian city over the course of 2 years. By studying this techno-political process from its origins onward, I uncovered an interesting story of obdurate institutions, bureaucratic momentum, unexpected troubles, and, ultimately, frustration and failure. These kinds of stories, which often go untold in the annals of innovation, contrast starkly with more common framings of technological triumph and transformation. They also, I argue, reveal much more about how techno-political systems are actualised in the world…(More)”.

Statement of Principles to support proactive disclosure of government-held information

Statement of principles by the  Australian information commissioners and ombudsmen: “Information commissioners and ombudsmen across Australia oversight and promote citizens’ rights to access government-held information and have powers to review agency decisions under the applicable right to information (RTI) legislation. Beyond formal rights of access, the proactive disclosure of government-held information promotes open government and advances our system of representative democracy.

All Australian governments (Commonwealth, state, territory, and local) and public institutions are strongly encouraged to commit to being Open by Design by building a culture of transparency and by prioritising, promoting and resourcing proactive disclosure.

These Principles recognise that:

  1. information held by government and public institutions is a public resource and, to the greatest extent possible, should be published promptly and proactively at the lowest reasonable cost, without the need for a formal access request, and
  2. a culture of transparency within government is everyone’s responsibility requiring action by all public sector leaders and officers to encourage and support the proactive disclosure of information, and
  3. appropriate, prompt and proactive disclosure of government-held information:
  • informs community – proactive disclosure leads to a more informed community, and awareness raising of government and public institutions’ strategic intentions and initiatives, driving innovation and improving standards. Transparent and coherent public communication can also address misinformation
  • increases participation and enhances decision-making – proactive disclosure increases citizen participation in government processes and promotes better informed decision-making through increased scrutiny, discussion, comment and review of government and public institutions’ decisions
  • builds trust and confidence – proactive disclosure enhances public sector accountability and integrity, builds public trust and confidence in decision-making by government and public institutions and strengthens principles of liberal democracy
  • improves service delivery – proactive disclosure improves service delivery by providing access to information faster and more easily than formal access regimes, providing the opportunity to decide when and how information is provided, and to contextualise and explain information
  • is required or permitted by law – proactive disclosure is mandated, permitted, or protected by law in all Australian states and territories and the Commonwealth
  • improves efficiency – proactive disclosure reduces the administrative burden on departments and agencies and the need for citizens to make a formal information access request.

 Australian information commissioners and ombudsmen recommend that public sector agencies:

  1. Embed a proactive disclosure culture in all public sector agencies and public institutions by…(More)”.

Roadmap to social impact: Your step-by-step guide to planning, measuring and communicating social impact

Roadmap developed by Ioana Ramia, Abigail Powell, Katrina Stratton, Claire Stokes, Ariella Meltzer, and Kristy Muir: “…is a step-by-step guide to support you and your organisation through the process of outcomes measurement and evaluation.

While it’s not the silver bullet for outcomes measurement or impact assessment, The Roadmap provides you with eight steps to understand the context in which you operate, who you engage with and the social issue you are addressing, how you address this social issue, what the intended changes are, how and when to measure those changes and how to communicate and use your findings to further improve you work and social impact.

It introduces some established techniques for data collection and analysis, but it is not a guide to research methods. A list of resources is also provided at the end of the guide, including tools for stakeholder engagement, developing a survey, interview questionnaire and data analysis.

The Roadmap is for everyone working towards the creation of positive social impact in Australia who wants to measure the change they are making for individuals, organisations and communities….(More)”.