The CSSLab has received a research grant in the amount of $229,663 from Templeton World Charity Foundation for the ongoing development of “An Open-Science Platform to Improve Deliberation and Reduce Polarization,” which is working to discover which types of interventions most reduce social polarization in deliberative groups and populations.
Besides creating a useful tool to facilitate more effective cooperation across contexts, the Lab’s work is a timely response to the widening gap between traditional social science research methodology and the ever-growing, revolutionary potential created by technological innovation. The Open-Science Platform project is an effort to rethink the fundamental “one at a time” paradigm of experimental social and behavioral science. Rather than running limited experiments tailored to a single hypothesis, it aims to use a novel data-driven framework to design and run “high-throughput” experiments that are radically different in scale and scope from the traditional model. This approach opens the door to new experimental insights, as well as new approaches to theory building.
Reflecting the CSSLab’s motivating philosophy of use-inspired research, the team is applying this high-throughput design to the question of deliberation, or how teams work together. Prior research on deliberation has identified many features—of individual participants, the circumstances under which they come together, and the topics they consider—that are potentially relevant to the success of a given exercise. However, the current state of research does not provide clear guidelines for how these features influence the process of deliberation. As a result, we have trouble using our existing knowledge to predict which interventions are most likely to succeed in a given situation.
The inability to contextualize knowledge about deliberation is an important example of what has been called a “generalizability crisis” in social science. Experiments in deliberation typically vary only one or two parameters of theoretical interest, while keeping many others fixed. Because different studies vary from one another along many potentially relevant dimensions, and because we have no way to express how large or small these differences are or how important we expect them to be to the outcomes we care about, it is essentially impossible to make “apples to apples” comparisons across different contexts. Consequently, we lack a rigorous way to specify over which range of conditions we expect any of our existing studies to generalize.
Related: High-Throughput Experiments on Group Dynamics
The High-Throughput Virtual Lab Project pursues an ambitious path to facilitate a new class of scientific advances in our understanding of collective social phenomena.
High-throughput design as a solution
In an effort to overcome this generalizability problem, the CSSLab is working to develop a platform for making and testing predictions about polarization in an effort to overcome this generalizability problem. Designing and building the core infrastructure for high-throughput experiments that will power the open science platform is the pilot phase of this two-stage project. As a longer term goal, the team aims to organize a community of researchers and practitioners around this platform to explore the space of possible experimental contexts, and ultimately to build replicable, cumulative, and useful knowledge.
This work is in line with Templeton World Charity Foundation’s “Listening and Learning in a Polarized World” initiative, launched to support research for new scientific discoveries that can help humans flourish in a world confronted with increasing volumes of polarizing information. It is a direct output of the Foundation’s new five-year strategy to support new scientific research on human flourishing and to translate related discoveries into practical tools for dissemination.
About the Templeton World Charity Foundation
Templeton World Charity Foundation funds interdisciplinary research on what it means to be human. They also support work to translate discoveries into practical innovations that enhance our positive and distinctive capacities that are at the core of human flourishing and well-being.
Founded in 1996 by groundbreaking philanthropist and legendary investor, Sir John Templeton, Templeton World Charity Foundation supports a diverse group of researchers to discover new knowledge, develop new tools, and launch new innovations that make a lasting impact. They support projects that will form a robust pipeline of innovations aimed at improving key aspects of human flourishing. Their strategy is not just about making interesting discoveries, but also about translating those discoveries into practices that can be rigorously tested and launched for the benefit of individuals and communities.
Today, Templeton World Charity Foundation funds projects around the world that embody the dynamic and forward-looking vision espoused by their founder. They support rigorous scholarship and transparency in research. By funding both emerging and established experts across disciplines, they support wide-reaching topics that engage thought leaders and the general public on a global level.
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