Building Research Infrastructures to Study Digital Technology and Politics: Lessons from Switzerland
By Fabrizio Gilardi, Lucien Baumgartner, University of Zurich, Clau Dermont, Swiss Federal Office of Culture,
Karsten Donnay, Theresa Gessler, Maël Kubli, Lucas Leemann, University of Zurich and Stefan Müller, University College Dublin
The relationship between digital technology and politics is an important phenomenon that remains poorly understood due to several structural problems. A key issue is the lack of adequate research infrastructures or the lack of access. This article discusses the challenges many social scientists face and presents the infrastructure we built in Switzerland to overcome them, using COVID-19 as an example. We conclude by discussing seven lessons we learned: automatization is key; avoid data hoarding; outsource some parts of the infrastructure but not others; focus on substantive questions; share data in the context of collaborations; engage in targeted public outreach; and collaboration is more promising than competition. We hope that our experience is helpful to other researchers pursuing similar goals.