Reusing the OpenCare/RECODE approach: "Understanding populism" in Horizon 2020

With @meta and @melancon we more or less agreed to submit a proposal to the Understanding populism Horizon 2020 topic. We want to do this because, well, we care about the European project of peace through the Four Freedoms, and we are worried about the rise of nativist politics. We also happen to think that our Social Semantic Networks concept is a great fit to investigate how populism looks like to populists and to people on the receiving end of it. We can form any number of theories (“people worry about their jobs”, “people are afraid to lose their cultural identity”, “people are worried about putting pressure on welfare services”), but these are just stories. We do not know what it really looks like from out there, not outside of tiny echo chambers.

Thing is: our group has a powerful methodology for empirical research, but we do not have the domain expertise to lead an investigation like this. We need to rally behind a high-level lead investigator (a historian, or a sociologist, for example), with a small host of PhDs to deploy. So, we are looking for one.

I think the thing to do is to reach out for the Dandelion project. It is a coordination and support action “to support the uptake and valorisation of Inclusive, Innovative and Reflective Societies (IIRS) research and improve its dissemination towards citizens, policy makers, academia and media”. IIRS is likely to be dead in the water, but it is not unreasonable to conjecture that some of it might live on in GOVERNANCE, the call that contains the populism topic.

The Dandelion crowd may have information about who is out there working on populism. Its coordinator is Q-Plan in Thessaloniki; the project manager is Iakovos Delioglanis,


This sounds well aligned with the work that @hugi and I are doing in the Nordics…


Yes. Same method, same tech, even partially overlapping content. Different markets, though.

Wrapping up on this topic. I have looked into the most promising results returned from a research for “populism” in the CORDIS database as suggested by the Estonian national contact point, Ms. Ülle Must. My conclusions:

  • Some of them are 100-200K Marie Curie grants to individual researchers. These are poorly documented, and anyway used as stepping stones in someone’s academic career. Not worth pursuing.
  • There are a couple of more structured projects (~ 1.5 million) in FP7 and H2020, that I mapped out. I dug out the names of the lead researchers in them. We will get in touch with them in very early 2018. Data are here.
  • We get in touch with the Dandelion coordinator, as reported at the beginning of the thread.
  • We also call up the Commission, trace the project officer for GOVERNANCE-03-2018, and ask to be introduced to the community around this populism issue. This was suggested by Luís at ArtShare, and is a good idea.

So, closing this issue for now, and ccing @anique.yael

Here is an example text that we could use to get in touch with researchers and practitioners as mentioned above.

Dear ____ ,

I am _____ at Edgeryders, an Estonian SME with a strong presence in Brussels.

We are considering applying to a Horizon 2020 topic called GOVERNANCE-03-2018, “Understanding populism”. We understand you have been involved in a project called __________; based on that, we thought maybe you are considering it too. In that case, we wonder if you would consider us as a partner.

Unlike you, we are not domain experts on populism. Our contribution to a proposal to the “Understanding populism” topic would be a work package to build a very large scale ethnographic study that would uncover what populist societal dynamics looks like to populists themselves, and to those on the receiving end of it. This could be used to illuminate and validate the hypotheses produced by domain experts like you.

We can do this based on a novel method called Semantic Social Network Analysis. The main idea is to foster an online conversation; perform ethnographic coding on it; then use graph theory and some software to build a network of ethnographic codes that represent the conversation. You can think of it as a collective mental map of the problem at hand. This comes with a filtering technique that allows human researchers to make sense of even very large graphs, with thousands of contributions and ethnographic codes.

If this sounds interesting, let me know. I’ll be happy to discuss it and answer any questions.


More information:

Copy all this @alberto. Love your work