14 projects and 2 Ireland-based PIs funded in NORFACE programme “Democratic Governance in a Turbulent Age”

Posted: 24 April, 2020

The Irish Research Council welcomes the announcement that fourteen transnational and multi-disciplinary consortia, including two Ireland-based Principal Investigators, have been selected for funding from the European NORFACE network on the theme Democratic Governance in a Turbulent Age. Over the next few years, they will focus on subjects such as disruptive changes in the political landscape, polarisation and populism, identities, and the legitimacy of the administrative state. The total budget of the call was 17.3 million. 

NORFACE (New Opportunities for Research Funding Agency Cooperation in Europe) is a partnership of national research funding agencies from 20 European countries focusing on the field of social and behavioural sciences. Since its inception in 2004, NORFACE has provided joint funding facilities, supported existing networks and encouraged the formation of new networks. The IRC is a member agency, providing support for Ireland-based applicants and awardees. (See https://research.ie/funding/norface/.) 

The Democratic Governance in a Turbulent Age programme offers a timely investigation of the precise nature of this turbulence and of how European states can negotiate it and develop strategies to enhance the quality of democratic politics and governance. The programme aims to support innovative and excellent research addressing important challenges to democratic governance and politics; to produce added value through the development of European cross-national research collaborations exploring the impacts of variations in social, economic, cultural and political contexts on changes in how democracies work; and tidentify promising forms of policy innovation and institutional design and explore the conditions for their application in different jurisdictions. A full list of funded projects is available on the NORFACE website.  

Established experts based in Ireland are involved in two of the projects selected in this prestigious and timely European research programme: 

Karen M. Anderson, Associate Professor of Social Policy at University College Dublin, is leading the project Democratic Governance of Funded Pension Schemes (DEEPEN). Dr Anderson’s research focuses on comparative social policy development, financialization and non-state social policy, and the impact of Europeanization on national welfare states. 

DEEPEN explores the democratic governance of capital-funded occupational pension schemes. The team will distinguish between input legitimacy (i.e. are collectively binding decisions in line with citizens’ democratically expressed preferences?) and output legitimacy (i.e. do collectively binding decisions serve the common interests of the citizens?) to investigate how governments, regulators and labour market actors govern funded pensions (input legitimacy) and whether participants are satisfied with pension fund performance (output legitimacy). The project compares Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Ireland and Spain as the structure of funded pension provision varies along key dimensions relevant to input and output legitimacy. The other research team members are Dr Tobias Wiss (Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria); Dr Natascha van der Zwan (Leiden University, Netherlands); and Prof. Juan Fernandez (University Carlos II, Madrid, Spain). 

Dr Constantine BoussalisAssistant Professor of Political Science at Trinity College Dublin, is principal investigator on the project Extreme Identities: A Linguistic and Visual Analysis of European Far-Right Online Communities Politics of Identity (ExId), led by Dr S. Baele (University of Exeter, UK). The third collaborator is Dr N. Doerr (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)Dr Boussalis’s research lies at the intersection of computational social science, political communication, and political behaviour, using machine learning and computational methods to discover and analyse latent patterns in politically relevant text and speech. 

ExId offers a comprehensive analysis of the European far-right online landscape. Combining cutting-edge computational methods with qualitative analysis, the project will identify the many online far-right communities present in 7 European countries, map their relationships, and expose how these communities, through language and visual imagery, make some issues salient and construct particular collective identities (both in-groups such as “whites”, “Western civilization” or “Europe”, and out-groups such as “Muslims”, “feminists”, or “multiculturalists”). The project will offer a dynamic analysis of both the evolution of the European far-right online landscape and its linguistic and visual content, exploring phenomena such as the impact of real-world events on websites’ content or circulation of linguistic/visual tropes across groups. Through close collaboration between the three participating centres (each with a proven track-record of research on online extremist communications), this project will engage with European policymakers and state officials and produce a range of publications, including two databasesExId will thus significantly enhance our understanding of shifting identities and representation, the evolving politics of threat, the democratisation of information, and the changing authority of institutions. 

Dr Eavan O’Brien, Assistant Director (Impact and Partnerships) at the Irish Research Council, commented that “The success of Ireland-based researchers in the NORFACE call Democratic Governance in a Turbulent Age is excellent news. This outcome demonstrates the internationally recognised quality of Irish social science and policy-related research and the importance of transnational collaboration on current societal challenges.” 

This research programme has received funding from the European Unions Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 822166. 

Further information on NORFACE, its partners and research programmes can be found on the NORFACE and NWO websites. 

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