The event series “Democracy: Bridging facts and Norms” has come to an end!

Thanks to the financial support of a Graduate Campus Grant from the University of Zurich, six public and academic events took place between November 2015 and October 2016. Please find a recap of the entire series as well as videos and reports of each event here:

The organizers of this series, Alice el-Wakil, Lea Heyne and Lukas Peter, are also extremely grateful to all the speakers who took part of in this year, to Karima Bousbah, Antoinette Scherz, Rebecca Welge and Doreen Spörer-Wagner for encouraging them to prepare this events series, to Daniele Caramani and Francis Cheneval who supported their application, to Lisa Brun for her administrative support, to Christoph Laszlo who designed the poster, to all their colleagues, families and friends who helped them planning, designing, and advertising our events, to Institut Zukunft and Denknetz who cooperated with them on two events, to the NCCR Democracy and the Centre for Democracy Studies in Aarau for diffusing their events, to all the University of Zurich staff who helped us with organizational and technical matters, and to the many people who joined us for the workshops and public events. Thank you!

Knowledge Transfer Award 2016 is very happy to announce that the organizers of the fotoseries were awarded with the NCCR Democracy Knowledge Transfer Award for “Democracy: Bridging Facts and Norms”. This award recognizes special achievements in transferring knowledge gathered in NCCR research into society, targeting non-academic groups.

The organizers of this series want to thank the NCCR Democracy for this award, which would again not have been possible without the help of all the people mentioned above.

Upcoming activities

While the event series is over, the podcast channel “Democracy: Bridging Facts and Norms” will continue to be updated.

Many future projects are currently in preparation – stay informed about’s projects and activities by registering to our mailinglist!


The International Conference in ‘Populism and Democracy’ organized by the second module of the research project NCCR DEMOCRACY, ‘Populism in times of Globalization and Mediatization’, hosted a panel discussion titled “Populism: A challenge for democracy, a challenge for research?” on June 28, 2016, in Zurich.
Top-researchers in the field of populism studies shared their views on the advancement of research on populism, but also on the role of populism scholars in democratic debates. As this topic is at the center of the upcoming and final event of the events series “Democracy: Bridging Facts and Norms,” and that the advice of Daniele Albertazzi, Frank Esser, Cas Mudde, Matthijs Rooduijn, and Marco Steenbergen could help younger researchers in democracy studies, we here share a few of the insights from this discussion gathered by Alice el-Wakil.

A valuable engagement…

The moderator of the event, Linars Udris, asked whether populism researchers should engage in public debates, particularly in the media, and if yes, how they should do it. All panelists seemed to share the view expressed by Rooduijn that we can be glad that researchers engage in public debates. For Steenbergen, political researchers have an important role to play in pointing out what is happening, and in clarifying what can be considered as wrong about it.

… with inherent risks

Yet there are risks inherent in becoming active in the media. On the one hand, Steenbergen and Esser emphasized that it requires skills to make the right message pass to the public through journalists: One has to be careful when it comes to communicating research findings to avoid it being misinterpreted – especially when it comes to a ‘hot’ topic such as populism, for which even a definition of the phenomenon can be difficult to understand. On the other hand, Albertazzi and Mudde mentioned the risks media engagement entails for an academic career. Mudde insisted on the fact that once something has been published online, it is there forever: Researchers should think seriously before engaging in social and other media – especially for those doing field work. Once one’s messages are noticed, one becomes a public intellectual, and looses the anonymity necessary for certain kind of research.

The decision of researchers to engage in public debates should thus, in Mudde’s view, be a personal one. His own choice was to follow his certainty that he should make his research available to larger audiences. The question of whether the increased knowledge on populism could, in the future, somehow benefit populist movements as well as the question of the extent to which this would be acceptable however remained open.


The events series “Democracy: Bridging Facts and Norms” has now officially started – with a promising start!

The opening discussion about the Limits of Democracy took place on Wednesday, November 18, 2015 in the Aula of the University of Zurich. Many of the topics we intend to touch upon in our 2015-2016 project were introduced and debated in a very thoughtful and interesting way by our speakers and moderator – Daniele Caramani, Francis Cheneval, Rosmarie Quadranti, Rudolf Strahm, and Daniel Binswanger. We are very thankful to them for sharing their perspective on this important topic, as well as to the large audience for coming and participating!

Those who couldn’t make it can learn more about what was discussed…

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