Evaluation Guidelines for Representative Deliberative Processes


OECD Report: “Evaluations of representative deliberative processes do not happen regularly, not least due to the lack of specific guidance for their evaluation. To respond to this need, together with an expert advisory group, the OECD has developed Evaluation Guidelines for Representative Deliberative Processes. They aim to encourage public authorities, organisers, and evaluators to conduct more comprehensive, objective, and comparable evaluations.

These evaluation guidelines establish minimum standards and criteria for the evaluation of representative deliberative processes as a foundation on which more comprehensive evaluations can be built by adding additional criteria according to specific contexts and needs.

The guidelines suggest that independent evaluations are the most comprehensive and reliable way of evaluating a deliberative process.

For smaller and shorter deliberative processes, evaluation in the form of self-reporting by members and/or organisers of a deliberative process can also contribute to the learning process…(More)”.

Academic Incentives and Research Impact: Developing Reward and Recognition Systems to Better People’s Lives


Report by Jonathan Grant: “…offers new strategies to increase the societal impact that health research can have on the community and critiques the existing academic reward structure that determines the career trajectories of so many academics—including, tenure, peer-review publication, citations, and grant funding, among others. The new assessment illustrates how these incentives can lead researchers to produce studies as an end-goal, rather than pursuing impact by applying the work in real world settings.

Dr. Grant also outlines new system-, institution-, and person-level changes to academic incentives that, if implemented, could make societal impact an integral part of the research process. Among the changes offered by Dr. Grant are tying a percentage of grant funding to the impact the research has on the community, breaking from the tenure model to incentivize ongoing development and quality research, and encouraging academics themselves to prioritize social impact when submitting or reviewing research and grant proposals…(More)”.

Public Crowdsourcing: Analyzing the Role of Government Feedback on Civic Digital Platforms


Paper by Lisa Schmidthuber, Dennis Hilgers, and Krithika Randhawa: “Government organizations increasingly use crowdsourcing platforms to interact with citizens and integrate their requests in designing and delivering public services. Government usually provides feedback to individual users on whether the request can be considered. Drawing on attribution theory, this study asks how the causal attributions of the government response affect continued participation in crowdsourcing platforms. To test our hypotheses, we use a 7-year dataset of both online requests from citizens to government and government responses to citizen requests. We focus on citizen requests that are denied by government, and find that stable and uncontrollable attributions of the government response have a negative effect on future participation behavior. Also, a local government’s locus of causality negatively affects continued participation. This study contributes to research on the role of responsiveness in digital interaction between citizens and government and highlights the importance of rationale transparency to sustain citizen participation…(More)”.

Collective innovation is key to the lasting successes of democracies


Article by Kent Walker and Jared Cohen: “Democracies across the world have been through turbulent times in recent years, as polarization and gridlock have posed significant challenges to progress. The initial spread of COVID-19 spurred chaos at the global level, and governments scrambled to respond. With uncertainty and skepticism at an all-time high, few of us would have guessed a year ago that 66 percent of Americans would have received at least one vaccine dose by now. So what made that possible?

It turns out democracies, unlike their geopolitical competitors, have a secret weapon: collective innovation. The concept of collective innovation draws on democratic values of openness and pluralism. Free expression and free association allow for cooperation and scientific inquiry. Freedom to fail leaves room for risk-taking, while institutional checks and balances protect from state overreach.

Vaccine development and distribution offers a powerful case study. Within days of the coronavirus being first sequenced by Chinese researchers, research centers across the world had exchanged viral genome data through international data-sharing initiatives. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that 75 percent of COVID-19 research published after the outbreak relied on open data. In the United States and Europe, in universities and companies, scientists drew on open information, shared research, and debated alternative approaches to develop powerful vaccines in record-setting time.

Democracies’ self- and co-regulatory frameworks have played a critical role in advancing scientific and technological progress, leading to robust capital markets, talent-attracting immigration policies, world-class research institutions, and dynamic manufacturing sectors. The resulting world-leading productivity underpins democracies’ geopolitical influence….(More)”.

Manufacturing Consensus


Essay by M. Anthony Mills: “…Yet, the achievement of consensus within science, however rare and special, rarely translates into consensus in social and political contexts. Take nuclear physics, a well-established field of natural science if ever there were one, in which there is a high degree of consensus. But agreement on the physics of nuclear fission is not sufficient for answering such complex social, political, and economic questions as whether nuclear energy is a safe and viable alternative energy source, whether and where to build nuclear power plants, or how to dispose of nuclear waste. Expertise in nuclear physics and literacy in its consensus views is obviously important for answering such questions, but inadequate. That’s because answering them also requires drawing on various other kinds of technical expertise — from statistics to risk assessment to engineering to environmental science — within which there may or may not be disciplinary consensus, not to mention grappling with practical challenges and deep value disagreements and conflicting interests.

It is in these contexts — where multiple kinds of scientific expertise are necessary but not sufficient for solving controversial political problems — that the dependence of non-experts on scientific expertise becomes fraught, as our debates over pandemic policies amply demonstrate. Here scientific experts may disagree about the meaning, implications, or limits of what they know. As a result, their authority to say what they know becomes precarious, and the public may challenge or even reject it. To make matters worse, we usually do not have the luxury of a scientific consensus in such controversial contexts anyway, because political decisions often have to be made long before a scientific consensus can be reached — or because the sciences involved are those in which a consensus is simply not available, and may never be.

To be sure, scientific experts can and do weigh in on controversial political decisions. For instance, scientific institutions, such as the National Academies of Sciences, will sometimes issue “consensus reports” or similar documents on topics of social and political significance, such as risk assessment, climate change, and pandemic policies. These usually draw on existing bodies of knowledge from widely varied disciplines and take considerable time and effort to produce. Such documents can be quite helpful and are frequently used to aid policy and regulatory decision-making, although they are not always available when needed for making a decision.

Yet the kind of consensus expressed in these documents is importantly distinct from the kind we have been discussing so far, even though they are both often labeled as such. The difference is between what philosopher of science Stephen P. Turner calls a “scientific consensus” and a “consensus of scientists.” A scientific consensus, as described earlier, is a relatively stable paradigm that structures and organizes scientific research. By contrast, a consensus of scientists is an organized, professional opinion, created in response to an explicit political or social need, often an official government request…(More)”.

Articulating the Role of Artificial Intelligence in Collective Intelligence: A Transactive Systems Framework


Paper by Pranav Gupta and Anita Williams Woolley: “Human society faces increasingly complex problems that require coordinated collective action. Artificial intelligence (AI) holds the potential to bring together the knowledge and associated action needed to find solutions at scale. In order to unleash the potential of human and AI systems, we need to understand the core functions of collective intelligence. To this end, we describe a socio-cognitive architecture that conceptualizes how boundedly rational individuals coordinate their cognitive resources and diverse goals to accomplish joint action. Our transactive systems framework articulates the inter-member processes underlying the emergence of collective memory, attention, and reasoning, which are fundamental to intelligence in any system. Much like the cognitive architectures that have guided the development of artificial intelligence, our transactive systems framework holds the potential to be formalized in computational terms to deepen our understanding of collective intelligence and pinpoint roles that AI can play in enhancing it….(More)”

Building Global Societies on Collective Intelligence: Challenges and Opportunities


Article by Shweta Suran et al: “Digital disruptions caused by use of technologies like social media arguably present a formidable challenge to democratic values and in-turn to Collective Intelligence (CI or “wisdom-of-crowd”), which the former is an emblem of. These challenges such as misinformation, partisan bias, polarization, and rising mistrust in institutions (incl. mainstream media), present a new threat to collectives both online and offline—amplifying the risk of turning “wise” crowds “mad”, and rendering their actions counterproductive. Considering the increasingly important role crowds play in solving today’s socio-political, technological, and economical issues, and in shaping our future, we identify time-critical challenges and potential solutions that require urgent attention if future CI systems are to sustain their indispensable role as global deliberation instruments….(More)”.

Are we really so polarised?


Article by Dominic Packer and Jay Van Bavel: “In 2020, the match-making website OkCupid asked 5 million hopeful daters around the world: “Could you date someone who has strong political opinions that are the opposite of yours?” Sixty per cent said no, up from 53% a year before.

Scholars used to worry that societies might not be polarised enough. Without clear differences between political parties, they thought, citizens lack choices, and important issues don’t get deeply debated. Now this notion seems rather quaint as countries have fractured along political lines, reflected in everything from dating preferences to where people choose to live.

Sign up to our Inside Saturday newsletter for an exclusive behind the scenes look at the making of the magazine’s biggest features, as well as a curated list of our weekly highlights.

Just how stark has political polarisation become? Well, it depends on where you live and how you look at it. When social psychologists study relations between groups, they often find that whereas people like their own groups a great deal, they have fairly neutral feelings towards out-groups: “They’re fine, but we’re great!” This pattern used to describe relations between Democrats and Republicans in the US. In 1980, partisans reported feeling warm towards members of their own party and neutral towards people on the other side. However, while levels of in-party warmth have remained stable since then, feelings towards the out-party have plummeted.

The dynamics are similar in the UK, where the Brexit vote was deeply divisive. A 2019 study revealed that while UK citizens were not particularly identified with political parties, they held strong identities as remainers or leavers. Their perceptions were sharply partisan, with each side regarding its supporters as intelligent and honest, while viewing the other as selfish and close-minded. The consequences of hating political out-groups are many and varied. It can lead people to support corrupt politicians, because losing to the other side seems unbearable. It can make compromise impossible even when you have common political ground. In a pandemic, it can even lead people to disregard advice from health experts if they are embraced by opposing partisans.

The negativity that people feel towards political opponents is known to scientists as affective polarisation. It is emotional and identity-driven – “us” versus “them”. Importantly, this is distinct from another form of division known as ideological polarisation, which refers to differences in policy preferences. So do we disagree about the actual issues as much as our feelings about each other suggest?

Despite large differences in opinion between politicians and activists from different parties, there is often less polarisation among regular voters on matters of policy. When pushed for their thoughts about specific ideas or initiatives, citizens with different political affiliations often turn out to agree more than they disagree (or at least the differences are not as stark as they imagine).

More in Common, a research consortiumthat explores the drivers of social fracturing and polarisation, reports on areas of agreement between groups in societies. In the UK, for example, they have found that majorities of people across the political spectrum view hate speech as a problem, are proud of the NHS, and are concerned about climate change and inequality…(More)”.

Institutionalizing deliberative mini-publics? Issues of legitimacy and power for randomly selected assemblies in political systems


Paper by Dimitri Courant: “Randomly selected deliberative mini-publics (DMPs) are on the rise globally. However, they remain ad hoc, opening the door to arbitrary manoeuvre and triggering a debate on their future institutionalization. What are the competing proposals aiming at institutionalizing DMPs within political systems? I suggest three ways for thinking about institutionalization: in terms of temporality, of legitimacy and support, and of power and role within a system. First, I analyze the dimension of time and how this affect DMP institutional designs. Second, I argue that because sortition produces ‘weak representatives’ with ‘humility-legitimacy’, mini-publics hardly ever make binding decisions and need to rely on external sources of legitimacies. Third, I identify four institutional models, relying on opposing views of legitimacy and politics: tamed consultation, radical democracy, representative klerocracy and hybrid polyarchy. They differ in whether mini-publics are interpreted as tools: for legitimizing elected officials; to give power to the people; or as a mean to suppress voting…(More)”.

What Collective Narcissism Does to Society


Essay by  Scott Barry Kaufman: “In 2005, the psychologist Agnieszka Golec de Zavala was researching extremist groups, trying to understand what leads people to commit acts of terrorist violence. She began to notice something that looked a lot like what the 20th-century scholars Theodor Adorno and Erich Fromm had referred to as “group narcissism”: Golec de Zavala defined it to me as “a belief that the exaggerated greatness of one’s group is not sufficiently recognized by others,” in which that thirst for recognition is never satiated. At first, she thought it was a fringe phenomenon, but important nonetheless. She developed the Collective Narcissism Scale to measure the severity of group-narcissistic beliefs, including statements such as “My group deserves special treatment” and “I insist upon my group getting the respect that is due to it” with which respondents rate their agreement.

Sixteen years later, Golec de Zavala is a professor at SWPS University, in Poland, and a lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, leading the study of group narcissism—and she’s realized that there’s nothing fringe about it. This thinking can happen in seemingly any kind of assemblage: a religious, political, gender, racial, or ethnic group, but also a sports team, club, or cult. Now, she said, she’s terrified at how widely she’s finding it manifested across the globe.

Collective narcissism is not simply tribalism. Humans are inherently tribal, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Having a healthy social identity can have an immensely positive impact on well-being. Collective narcissists, though, are often more focused on out-group prejudice than in-group loyalty. In its most extreme form, group narcissism can fuel political radicalism and potentially even violence. But in everyday settings, too, it can keep groups from listening to one another, and lead them to reduce people on the “other side” to one-dimensional characters. The best way to avoid that is by teaching people how to be proud of their group—without obsessing over recognition….(More)”.