Project Summary

The project combines a meta-study and comparative case study to develop a leading edge understanding of political deliberation by analysing and synthesising results from available studies of deliberation. It aims to reconcile conflicting findings and provide the first comprehensive, theoretically-grounded account of defensible claims about political deliberation. The project will compile the source material and findings in a publicly-available database to facilitate standardisation and enhancement of future research in the field. It will seek to settle important questions that remain among deliberative democrats and, more practically, facilitate avenues for democratic reform in an area where the need for renewal is increasingly pressing.

Background information

Project Aims

The project will assemble a strong, coherent team, with strong international networks, to perform four important functions:

  1. Conceptual verification and clarification. Updating Advancing the theory of deliberation based on evidence will combine quantitative meta-analysis and intensive small n qualitative-interpretative comparative case study research. The aim is to develop a leading edge understanding of political deliberation by comparing results from available studies making a claim to the analysis of deliberation. It will seek to reconcile conflicting findings in the field by determining which variables account for the differences in claims that are made, and whether the solution requires reconceptualization. This study will be the first systematic and comprehensive account of what claims really can be made about the nature of political deliberation in different settings and contexts. The ultimate aim is to hold accountable those who claim to have observed ‘deliberation’, and help those who seek to design to achieve it.

  2. Enhancing future research capacity. The project will set the standard for future empirical research in the field, as well as increasing capacity. It will compile all the available material — studies, variables, survey instruments, data and findings building on a database to host findings, resources (e.g. survey items) and design features from existing research on micro-deliberation, and provide this as resource that is available to all researchers in the field as mechanisms for standardizing and enhancing future research. The database will be linked to Participedia (Fung and Warren, 2011) ( to provide open access, building on existing relationships with the University of Canberra based Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance (hereon, The Centre). Participedia is an open source repository of information about participatory processes around the world — this project will enhance the research potential of that facility.

  3. Update theories of deliberative democratisation in the Anthropocene. Dryzek and Niemeyer will combine their considerable experience on the question of deliberative environmental governance, using this project to focus on the dimension of deliberation on environmental issues, particularly climate change, and assess how well claims are backed by evidence.

  4. Establishing design parameters for deliberative practice and institutionalisation. In terms of practice, the aim of this project is to develop an authoritative and actionable account of what makes a ‘good’ deliberative forum, and what accounts for the differences in outcomes. By building on the Centre’s network of deliberative practitioners, we hope to provide responses to the questions our Centre often gets asked: What’s a good design of deliberative forum for this particular issue? The project and its findings will also be used in conjunction with The Centre’s increased move into the spheres of practitioner, public and decision maker in the form of the Democratic Innovation Initiative, being developed in cooperation with the Museum of Australian Democracy, which seeks to inform innovation in democratic practice (IGPA, 2016).