Research Projects

PROTEMO – Emotional dynamics of protective policies in an age of insecurity (starting in January 2024)

This international and interdisciplinary project funded by the EU through the Horizon Europe programme aims to investigate the emotional roots of protective policies and their emotional consequences for individuals, groups of citizens and non-citizens as well as for democracy, political participation and mobilisation. Our basic thesis is that in an age of insecurity and polycrises, politics is increasingly about protection by the state – a protection which is not necessarily limited to material policies, but is increasingly dominated by an emotional component. Against this background, we will study the emotional dynamics of protective policies both in the policy process and in terms of their consequences to citizens. The interdisciplinary research group consists of social and political psychologists, political scientists and sociologists from Denmark, Israel, Poland, Portugal, the UK and Germany and is led by the Saarland University.

STRAKOSIM – Strategic Communication of insecurity in simulation models (starting in December 2023)

This research project – funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research – and led by the RPTU Landau will investigate public communication about scientific modelling and simulations in the context of complex problems and the influence of such communication on political decision-making. Based on three case studies (Covid-19 pandemics, energy security, biodiversity), we will study how uncertain scientific evidence gained from simulation models is communicated by stakeholders and how this affects public opinion and the policy process. Whereas the communication and the reactions to it are mainly researched by colleagues from the communication science department in Landau, we will focus mainly on the second question and investigate how actors involved in the policy process perceive and/or strategically use scientific evidence. We will use The Multiple Streams Framework to better understand through which channels uncertain evidence in scientific communication flows into the policy process and how policy makers cope with this situation. In sum, the project contributes to better understand the genesis and consequences of public communication about uncertain scientific evidence and how it affects politics. It will therefore provide insights into how scientific results and the uncertainty that comes with it can be communicated in an effecitive and responsible manner.

Politics of Insecurity (running)

This international project POINS which is primarily based at the Syddansk Universitet in Odense (Denmark) and lead by Peter Starke studies how citizens’ rising subjective insecurity is reflected in social welfare and criminal justice policymaking. 1) How does insecurity affect citizens’ policy attitudes? 2) When and how do political parties respond to insecurity? And, finally, 3) how does insecurity influence policy reforms?

The project works with two opposing scenarios: On the one hand, parties and policymakers might respond with more protection, in the form of social welfare or effective crime prevention. On the other hand, exclusion and harsh punishment of outgroups and marginalized populations could be the result. These alternative dynamics will be systematically analyzed by an interdisciplinary team using both quantitative and qualitative methods and data from Denmark and a sample of EU and OECD countries.

Linking Borderlands | Policy Borderlands (running)

The BMBF funded project ‘Linking Borderlands’ brings together researchers from Saarland University, University of Kaiserslautern, European University Viadrina Frankfurt and Brandenburg University.

From an interdisciplinary perspective we look at the specific dynamics of EU border regions in the Saar-LorLux+ and the Brandenburg/Lebus area. While the different project subparts examine shared cross-border cultures and structures in language, planning, film and energy supply, the political science part of the project acts as the connecting puzzle piece: Its main focus lies on providing evidence for the mechanisms of transnational learning by drawing on the literatures on policy transfer and governance. The aim of the project will be to develop a refined theoretical model of cross-border policy transfer and to provide empirical evidence from several case studies. The results will not only further our scientific understanding of the increasing tendencies of policy convergence across states but will also be made available for practitioners and politicians.

Fatal 4 Justice (finished)

The project “Deciding about, by and together with algorithmic decision-making systems” – short „Fatal4Justice“, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, examines how algorithmic systems are employed in criminal justice decision-making. It is an interdisciplinary and international project reuniting Prof. Anja Achtziger, Chair of Social & Economic Psychology, (Friedrichshafen), legal scientist and media researcher Prof. Wolfgang Schulz (Hamburg), Prof. Karen Yeung, working at the interface between law, ethics and informatics (Birmingham), computer scientist Prof. Katharina A. Zweig (TUK) and Prof. Dr. Georg Wenzelburger (Saarland University).

The project aims to shed light on which algorithmic decision-making systems are used and how they are used in the area of criminal justice, i.e. where highly consequential decisions are made. The political science part of the project, hes been led by the great Pascal König and myself, zooms in on how political actors adopt algorithmic decision-making systems in criminal justice. This involves two major goals. First, we will – in joint collaboration with the colleagues – build an inventory of all ADM-systems in use in the US states and describe their characteristics. Second, we will analyze quantitatively, how we can explain the variance between the US states concerning the extent of use and the choice of ADM-systems.

Results of the project have been published in several publications, e.g. in Technology in Society, Government Information Quarterly, European Political Science, Law&Policy or the British Journal of Criminology.

The Politics of Housing Policy (finished)

Housing policy has attracted comparatively little attention in Comparative Public Policy research, which is why this research project has collected data on housing policy for a large sample of major cities across 13 OECD-states and on housing policies at the national level in Western European countries. During the data collection and a first phase of comparative analysis of the data, the project has benefitted from a funding by the Thyssen Foundation. Currently, the results are put together in several papers by my Ph.D. student Alexander von Kulessa working on this project.

Welfare State Cutbacks and Electoral Punishment (finished)

During four years, I had the privilege to work in close collaboration with colleagues from Aarhus University (Carsten Jensen, Seonghui Lee (now Essex U) and Christoph Arndt (now Reading U)) on a fascinating project that analyzed the interaction between welfare state reform politics and electoral reactions to cutbacks (and expansions). The backbone of the project is a new dataset on legislative changes to the welfare state in five countries (Denmark, Finland, France, Germany and the UK). The data and codebook can be downloaded by clicking on the respective links. From this project, we published several papers as a team (see publication list). During my research stay at Aarhus, Carsten and I also wrote a book that mainly presents the new dataset and some results of cross-national analyses about welfare state change.

Fair and good ADM (finished)

In this interdisciplinary research project uniting colleagues from data science (Prof. Katharina Zweig) and philosophy (Prof. Karen Joisten), the political science team (Kathrin Hartmann and myself) has studied how the increased use of algorithmic systems by state actors affects the decision-making in public administration and politics. We have looked more closely at three cases: The COMPAS as risk assessment tool in the Criminal Justice system in the US, the AMAS system in the Austrian labour market agency and the APB algorithm used to regulate access to higher education to universities in France. Results of the political science subproject have been published in several journal articles, among others in Policy Sciences, Policy Studies, and a more general interdisciplinary reflection has been published in Philosophy&Technology.

The politics of law and order (finished)

In this research project, I have studied the politics of law and order in Western Europe with a special focus on France, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom. In a mixed methods design, I have used quantitative analyses and in-depth case studies to analyze the political drivers of law and order policies. Besides a number of journal articles, I have published the results of my research in a book which appeared at OUP in 2020. Review articles on the book have been published in „Punishment & Society“ and in „Perspective on Politics„.