Public participation in crisis policymaking. How 30,000 Dutch citizens advised their government on relaxing COVID-19 lockdown measures

Paper by Niek Mouter et al: “Following the outbreak of COVID-19, governments took unprecedented measures to curb the spread of the virus. Public participation in decisions regarding (the relaxation of) these measures has been notably absent, despite being recommended in the literature. Here, as one of the exceptions, we report the results of 30,000 citizens advising the government on eight different possibilities for relaxing lockdown measures in the Netherlands. By making use of the novel method Participatory Value Evaluation (PVE), participants were asked to recommend which out of the eight options they prefer to be relaxed. Participants received information regarding the societal impacts of each relaxation option, such as the impact of the option on the healthcare system.

The results of the PVE informed policymakers about people’s preferences regarding (the impacts of) the relaxation options. For instance, we established that participants assign an equal value to a reduction of 100 deaths among citizens younger than 70 years and a reduction of 168 deaths among citizens older than 70 years. We show how these preferences can be used to rank options in terms of desirability. Citizens advised to relax lockdown measures, but not to the point at which the healthcare system becomes heavily overloaded. We found wide support for prioritising the re-opening of contact professions. Conversely, participants disfavoured options to relax restrictions for specific groups of citizens as they found it important that decisions lead to “unity” and not to “division”. 80% of the participants state that PVE is a good method to let citizens participate in government decision-making on relaxing lockdown measures. Participants felt that they could express a nuanced opinion, communicate arguments, and appreciated the opportunity to evaluate relaxation options in comparison to each other while being informed about the consequences of each option. This increased their awareness of the dilemmas the government faces….(More)”.

Treading new ground in household sector innovation research: Scope, emergence, business implications, and diffusion

Paper by Jeroen Jong et al: “Individual consumers in the household sector increasingly develop products, services and processes, in their discretionary time without payment. Household sector innovation is becoming a pervasive phenomenon, representing a significant share of the innovation activity in any economy. Such innovation emerges from personal needs or self-rewards, and is distinct from and complementary to producer innovations motivated by commercial gains. In this introductory paper to the special issue on household sector innovation, we take stock of emerging research on the topic. We categorize the research into four areas: scope, emergence, implications for business, and diffusion. We develop a conceptual basis for the phenomenon, introduce the articles in the special issue, and show how each article contributes new insights. We end by offering a research agenda for scholars interested in the salient phenomenon of household sector innovation….(More)”.

How do we know that it works? Designing a digital democratic innovation with the help of user-centered design

Paper by  Janne Berg et al: ‘Civic technology is used to improve not only policies, but to reinforce politics and has the potential to strengthen democracy. A search for new ways of involving citizens in decision-making processes combined with a growing smartphone penetration rate has generated expectations around smartphones as democratic tools. However, if civic applications do not meet citizens’ expectations and function poorly, they might remain unused and fail to increase interest in public issues. Therefore, there is a need to apply a citizen’s perspective on civic technology.

The aim of this study is to gain knowledge about how citizens’ wishes and needs can be included in the design and evaluation process of a civic application. The study has an explorative approach and uses mixed methods. We analyze which democratic criteria citizens emphasize in a user-centered design process of a civic application by conducting focus groups and interviews. Moreover, a laboratory usability study measures how well two democratic criteria, inclusiveness and publicity, are met in an application. The results show that citizens do emphasize democratic criteria when participating in the design of a civic application. A user-centered design process will increase the likelihood of a usable application and can help fulfill the democratic criteria designers aim for….(More)”

Why Aren’t Text Message Interventions Designed to Boost College Success Working at Scale?

Article by Ben Castleman: “I like to think of it as my Mark Zuckerberg moment: I was a graduate student and it was a sweltering summer evening in Cambridge. Text messages were slated to go out to recent high school graduates in Massachusetts and Texas. Knowing that thousands of phones would soon start chirping and vibrating with information about college, I refreshed my screen every 30 seconds, waiting to see engagement statistics on how students would respond. Within a few minutes there were dozens of new responses from students wanting to connect with an advisor to discuss their college plans.

We’re approaching the tenth anniversary of that first text-based advising campaign to reduce summer melt—when students have been accepted to and plan to attend college upon graduating high school, but do not start college in the fall. The now-ubiquity of businesses sending texts makes it hard to remember how innovative texting as a channel was; back in the early 2010s, text was primarily used for social and conversational communication. Maybe the occasional doctor’s office or airline would send a text reminder, but SMS was not broadly used as a channel by schools or colleges.

Those novel text nudges appeared successful. Results from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) that I conducted with Lindsay Page showed that students who received the texts reminding them of pre-enrollment tasks and connecting them with advisors enrolled in college at higher rates. We had the opportunity to replicate our summer melt work two summers later in additional cities and with engagement from the White House Social and Behavioral Sciences team and found similar impacts.

This evidence emerged as the Obama administration made higher ed policy a greater focus in the second term, with a particular emphasis on expanding college opportunity for underrepresented students. Similar text campaigns expanded rapidly and broadly—most notably former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Up Next campaign—in part because they check numerous boxes for policymakers and funders: Texts are inexpensive to send; text campaigns are relatively easy to implement; and there was evidence of their effectiveness at expanding college access….(More)”.

Experimental Regulations for AI: Sandboxes for Morals and Mores

Paper by Sofia Ranchordas: “Recent EU legislative and policy initiatives aim to offer flexible, innovation-friendly, and future-proof regulatory frameworks. Key examples are the EU Coordinated Plan on AI and the recently published EU AI Regulation Proposal which refer to the importance of experimenting with regulatory sandboxes so as to balance innovation in AI against its potential risks. Originally developed in the Fintech sector, regulatory sandboxes create a testbed for a selected number of innovative projects, by waiving otherwise applicable rules, guiding compliance, or customizing enforcement. Despite the burgeoning literature on regulatory sandboxes and the regulation of AI, the legal, methodological, and ethical challenges of regulatory sandboxes have remained understudied. This exploratory article delves into the some of the benefits and intricacies of employing experimental legal instruments in the context of the regulation of AI. This article’s contribution is twofold: first, it contextualizes the adoption of regulatory sandboxes in the broader discussion on experimental approaches to regulation; second, it offers a reflection on the steps ahead for the design and implementation of AI regulatory sandboxes….(More)”.

Mapping the United Nations Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics against new and big data sources

Paper by Dominik Rozkrut, Olga Świerkot-Strużewska, and Gemma Van Halderen: “Never has there been a more exciting time to be an official statistician. The data revolution is responding to the demands of the CoVID-19 pandemic and a complex sustainable development agenda to improve how data is produced and used, to close data gaps to prevent discrimination, to build capacity and data literacy, to modernize data collection systems and to liberate data to promote transparency and accountability. But can all data be liberated in the production and communication of official statistics? This paper explores the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics in the context of eight new and big data sources. The paper concludes each data source can be used for the production of official statistics in adherence with the Fundamental Principles and argues these data sources should be used if National Statistical Systems are to adhere to the first Fundamental Principle of compiling and making available official statistics that honor citizen’s entitlement to public information….(More)”.

The Paths to Digital Self-Determination – A Foundational Theoretical Framework

Paper by Nydia Remolina and Mark Findlay: “A deluge of data is giving rise to new understandings and experiences of society and economy as our digital footprint grows steadily. Are data subjects able to determine themselves in this data-driven society? The emerging debates about autonomy and communal responsibility in the context of data access or protection, highlight a pressing imperative to re-imagine the ‘self’ in the digital space. Empowerment, autonomy, sovereignty, human centricity, are all terms often associated with the notion of digital self-determination in current policy language. More academics, industry experts, policymakers, regulators are now advocating self-determination in a data-driven world. The attitudes to self-determination range from alienating data as property through to broad considerations of communal access and enrichment. Digital self-determination is a complex notion to be viewed from different perspectives and in unique spaces, re-shaping what we understand as self-determination in the non-digital world. This paper explores the notion of digital self-determination by presenting a foundational theoretical framework based on pre-existent self-determination theories and exploring the implications of the digital society in the determination of the self. Only by better appreciating and critically framing the discussion of digital self-determination, is it possible to engage in trustworthy data spaces, and ensure ethical human-centric approaches when living in a data driven society….(More)”.

Public policy for open innovation: Opening up to a new domain for research and practice

Introduction to Special Issue by Antonio Bob Santos et al: “Open Innovation (OI) emerged as one of the most important research topics in management and economics literature in the last decades, especially when understanding research and change phenomena (Martin 20122019). The concept, originally advanced by Chesbrough (2003), reflects and articulates changes of the global learning economy emerging from the development of digital technologies, ubiquitous innovation, intellectual labour mobility, and the growth of markets for knowledge resources and processes. More recently, Chesbrough and Bogers (2014: 17) redefined OI as “a distributed innovation process based on purposively managed knowledge flows across organizational boundaries” in which the implied notion of the business model could apply to a multitude of organisations and assume a variety of forms (cf. Caraça et al., 2009Zott et al., 2011). OI has been analysed in different dimensions, such as inside-out and outside-in knowledge flows, across levels of analysis (not only company level, but also individual and ecosystem level), and from different perspectives (such as regional/territorial and national/international) (Bogers et al., 2017Dahlander and Gann, 2010West et al., 2014).

OI is also a hot topic in actual business life, with a growing number of companies adopting a more fluid approach, namely what concerns to the knowledge valorisation and collaborative innovation practices. Research has accordingly also put a lot of attention on corporate aspects of OI with a particular focus on how to leverage external knowledge, management of OI networks, and the role of users and communities in OI (Randhawa et al., 2016Vanhaverbeke et al., 2014West and Bogers, 2014). Even though it may constitute an important boundary condition for OI practices, there has been a reasonably limited focus on the role of public policies in OI (Bogers et al., 2018de Jong et al., 2010Santos, 2016). Nevertheless, recent studies show that the adoption of OI can be stimulated through the existence of public policies favourable to a context of knowledge sharing, collaborative R&D and innovation, knowledge exploitation and valorisation, mobility and qualification of human resources or supporting innovative ideas (Beck et al., 2020Masucci et al., 2020; Mina et al. 2014; etc.).

All-in-all, a more elaborate focus on the role of public policy in OI is merited, and this is what this special issue provides. Pro-OI innovation policy can be understood as a general posture and the deployment of a specific set of instruments that seek to keep learning processes distributed and knowledge transfers unhurdled, while ensuring self-intended behaviours do not compromise the expansion of effective opportunities for the broader societal constituents. In this special issue the papers extend the portfolio of insights in a variety of ways.

The papers included in this special issue illustrate the breadth of roles that public policy can play in promoting OI practices and in the possible initiatives and instruments that can be applied to this end. The papers also hint at some of the challenges facing public policy to strengthen OI, e.g. with a view of measuring desired OI activities and effects, dealing with local and contextual factors that affect OI-related outcomes, and selecting and reaching appropriate target-actors (SMEs, business accelerators, public research institutes, universities) and contexts (science parks, clusters, regions)with the potential to engage in OI practices but with little or no current practices to build on. We learn that there is great scope for further research to help policymakers navigate the landscape of possible OI-promoting policies and actions and in supporting the design and implementation of effective public policy for OI….(More)”.

Would you notice if fake news changed your behavior? An experiment on the unconscious effects of disinformation

Paper by Zach Bastick: “A growing literature is emerging on the believability and spread of disinformation, such as fake news, over social networks. However, little is known about the degree to which malicious actors can use social media to covertly affect behavior with disinformation. A lab-based randomized controlled experiment was conducted with 233 undergraduate students to investigate the behavioral effects of fake news. It was found that even short (under 5-min) exposure to fake news was able to significantly modify the unconscious behavior of individuals. This paper provides initial evidence that fake news can be used to covertly modify behavior, it argues that current approaches to mitigating fake news, and disinformation in general, are insufficient to protect social media users from this threat, and it highlights the implications of this for democracy. It raises the need for an urgent cross-sectoral effort to investigate, protect against, and mitigate the risks of covert, widespread and decentralized behavior modification over online social networks….(More)”

Predicting social tipping and norm change in controlled experiments

Paper by James Andreoni, Nikos Nikiforakis, and Simon Siegenthaler: “Social tipping—instances of sudden change that upend social order—is rarely anticipated and usually understood only in hindsight. The ability to predict when societies will reach a tipping point has significant implications for welfare, especially when social norms are detrimental. In a large-scale laboratory experiment, we identify a model that accurately predicts social tipping and use it to address a long-standing puzzle: Why do norms sometimes persist when they are detrimental to social welfare? We show that beneficial norm change is often hindered by a desire to avoid the costs associated with transitioning to a new norm. We find that policies that help societies develop a common understanding of the benefits from change foster the abandonment of detrimental norms….(More)”.