Workshop: Research Ethics – Principles and Practice in Digitalization Research

We are excited to announce our next workshop, “Research Ethics – Principles and Practice in Digitalization Research“, which will take place on Thursday, April 18. This workshop will be conducted both at the Weizenbaum Institute and online, and is open to Weizenbaum Institute members as well as external participants (and the QPD). Led by Christine Normann (WZB), Julian Vuorimäki (WI), Maximilian Heimstädt (HSU), and Tiangling Yang (WI), the workshop will focus on principles and best practices of ethics in research. After a general introduction and overview of principles according to the German Research Foundation (DFG), current plans regarding an ethics board at Weizenbaum Institute will be presented and finally, three separate examples for ethical considerations in research practice will be shown.

For detailed information about the workshop, please visit our program page. We are looking forward to your participation!

Workshop: Introduction to Programming and Data Analysis with R (April 10-11, 2024)

Level: Beginner/Intermediate
Category: Data Analysis

After being well received last year, we’re happy to announce the return of our workshop Programming and Data Analysis with R for its second edition. This two-day intensive workshop led by Roland Toth (WI) will take place on Wednesday, April 10, and Thursday, April 11, at the Weizenbaum Institute.

During the first day, attendees will receive comprehensive training in programming fundamentals, essential data wrangling techniques, and Markdown integration. The second day will center around data analysis, providing participants with the chance to engage directly with a dataset and address a research topic independently. A blend of concepts, coding techniques, and smaller practical tasks will be interspersed throughout both days to reinforce hands-on learning.

For more information, check out the program page!

Workshop: Introduction to Online Surveys

We are excited to announce the Methods Lab’s first workshop of the year, “Introduction to Online Surveys“, which will take place on Thursday, February 22. This workshop will be conducted both at the Weizenbaum Institute and online, and is open to Weizenbaum Institute members as well as external participants. Led by members of the Methods Lab, Martin Emmer, Christian Strippel, and Roland Toth, the workshop will focus on the use of online surveys in the context of social science research, providing participants with a theoretical foundation as well as a hands-on guide. We will cover aspects such as the logic and design of online surveys, how to work with access panel providers, and demonstrate how to effectively set up an online survey using the versatile survey tool LimeSurvey. Crucial topics such as ethics and data protection will also be discussed.

For detailed information about the workshop, please visit our program page. We look forward to your participation!

First Research Fellow at the Methods Lab

The Methods Lab is excited to welcome its first research fellow who arrived at the Weizenbaum Institute on November 20: Douglas Parry from Stellenbosch University, South Africa. His research focus lies on Socio-Informatics in the area of Communication Science, Human-Computer Interaction, and Media/CyberPsychology.

Roland Toth, Christian Strippel, and Douglas Parry (left to right)

During his 4-week stay, Douglas Parry will contribute to work at the Methods Lab in different ways. On November 30, he will hold the workshop A Practical Introduction to Text Analysis, where he covers all important steps, from pre-processing text to visualizing results of topic modeling in a single day. On December 7, he will host a Digital Methods Colloquium together with Roland Toth, where German researchers focusing on digital methods will get together, present recent work, and discuss challenges and opportunities in the field.

Douglas Parry discussing problems when measuring digital behavior in the Weizenbaum Fellow Colloquium

Furthermore, Douglas Parry is collaborating on two research projects with the Methods Lab during his stay, both of which involve the processing of complex data surrounding smartphone usage that were collected using multiple methods earlier this year.

The Methods Lab is happy to host Douglas Parry and is looking forward to the results of this exciting partnership – stay tuned!

Workshop: A Practical Introduction to Text Analysis

We are eager to announce our upcoming workshop, “A Practical Introduction to Text Analysis“, on Thursday, November 30, at the Weizenbaum Institute. Led by visiting fellow Dr. Douglas Parry (Stellenbosch University, South Africa), this workshop offers a comprehensive introduction to text analysis using the R programming language. Topics covered include text pre-processing (formats, tokenization, stemming, stop words, regex), dictionary analysis (lexicons, tf-idf, sentiment), topic modeling (LDA, CTM, STM), and data visualization. By the end of the workshop, participants will be equipped to tackle real-world text-mining tasks and have a solid foundation to move on to more advanced analysis techniques. While a basic understanding of R programming is anticipated, prior experience in text analysis is not necessary.

For more details about the workshop, visit our program page. We look forward to your participation!

Introducing LimeSurvey

Surveys are an important method for data collection. Whether it is for conducting internal assessments, gathering feedback, or collecting valuable research data, a reliable survey tool is an integral piece in the methodological toolkit of any researcher. Using different survey tools for different projects leads to differences in the quality of data collection and unnecessary licensing costs. In order to find a more sustainable solution, the Methods Lab assessed some of the most popular survey tools with the aim of finding the ideal one to cater to the specific needs of the Weizenbaum Institute’s research groups and administrative departments. Important to us was to select a user-friendly, open-source survey tool suitable for research that can be hosted on our own servers

In this blog post, we introduce our choice: LimeSurvey. It is a free, open-source survey software with a strong commitment to data protection. It offers a versatile platform for data collection, making it ideal for researchers, academic institutions, and organizations of all sizes. In doing so, we hope that the insights from our survey tool comparison will prove useful to researchers and institutions beyond our own. 

Here are some of the distinctive advantages that we were able to identify, making LimeSurvey a compelling choice for research and data collection:

  • Cost-Effective and Open Source: LimeSurvey is open source, meaning, it is available for free when hosted on your own servers, thereby eliminating the need for costly licensing fees.
  • Data Protection: LimeSurvey prioritizes data privacy – a particular advantage appreciated by our IT department due to its compliance with the GDPR. Its servers are strategically located in Germany and Finland, ensuring adherence to stringent European data protection regulations.
  • User-Friendly Integration: LimeSurvey seamlessly integrates with existing user accounts, simplifying the onboarding process without requiring additional account setup.
  • Suitable for Research: LimeSurvey is designed with research needs in mind. It offers a wide range of features, including unlimited projects and administrators/accounts. This flexibility makes it suitable for both simple and complex research projects.
  • No Artificial Limits: LimeSurvey imposes no artificial limitations on user accounts, participants, or projects.

Happy surveying!

Workshop postponed – Interdisciplinarity in Action: Methods for Fruitful Teamwork

The announced workshop on interdisciplinary (practical) methods has been postponed to 2024 (the exact date and program will be announce in due time, stay tuned). A shorter, slightly modified online version of the workshop will be offered on Friday, 6 October 2023, please contact directly Sara Saba (sara.saba@weizenbaum-institut.de ) or Stephanie Bouré (stephanie.boure@weizenbaum-institut.de) if you are interested in participating.

Editorial to Special Issue and Software Presentation

We are thrilled to announce the contributions of Methods Lab members Christian Strippel and Roland Toth to the latest issue of Publizistik: Vierteljahreshefte für Kommunikationsforschung.

Christian co-authored the editorial and served as a guest editor of this special issue on journalism. The editorial “Data, archives, and tools: Introducing New Publication Formats on Infrastructures and Resources for Communication and Media Research” is available here.

Roland’s research on tracking and the Experience Sampling Method (ESM) app is featured in the same journal. Dive into his article, “One App to Assess Them All – Combining Surveys, Experience Sampling, and Logging/Data Donation in an Android and iOS App” here and learn more about MART, the open-source app designed to simplify data collection in social sciences.

Workshop Recap: Whose Data Is It Anyway? Ethical, Practical, and Methodological Challenges of Data Donation in Messenger Groups Research (August 30, 2023)

On August 30th, 2023, the Methods Lab and Olga Pasitselska (U of Groningen) organized the workshop on data donation in messaging groups research. The workshop intended to tackle practical and ethical issues behind data collection, processing, and dissemination in the research of closed messaging groups. We asked four colleagues to share their experiences and struggles and provide their solutions for closed chat groups research. The invited speakers, Sérgio Barbosa (U Coimbra), Katharina Knop-Hülß (HMTMH Hannover), Connie Moon Sehat (Hacks/Hackers), and Julian Kohne (GESIS), paved the way for better conceptualization of messaging groups and application of tailor-made ethical and practical solutions. The workshop allowed for a cross-field discussion of ad-hoc developments in closed groups research and provided many insights for the audience, speakers, and organizers.

Sérgio Barbosa explained his approach of joining activist WhatsApp groups in Brazil. Sérgio suggested that informed consent cannot be assumed as a one-off solution: instead, one should go beyond the check-list of ethical guidelines and learn by doing and negotiating with the group members. When joining these types of groups, researchers should clearly state the purposes of the research and disclose their identity, and also share the outcome of the research and promote it in the local community as well. Different approaches should be taken, depending on the type of groups: for example, pro-democracy groups and extremist groups should be treated differently, independent of the group size.

Dr. Katharina Knop-Hülß shared insights about studying non-professional secondary groups (e.g., choir, sport, volunteer groups) with her highly unobtrusive and highly invasive research approach of scraping chats’ content. Since these groups were representative of intimate environments of everyday communication, they can be considered as “safe spaces”, closed from the public eye. To account for the sensitive nature of the data collection, Katharina used an opt-in approach, provided pseudonymized chat logs to the participants before they consented to participate, and complied with the requirement not to share this data with anyone beyond the research team, even after the data was pseudonymized.

Julian Kohne introduced his digital platform for WhatsApp data donation that automatically cleans and anonymizes the data, reducing researchers’ exposure to and intervention in the raw data. In his research, Julian takes a participant-centered approach: the data collection tool is designed to maximize usability and control of the data for research participants. They can pre-process the data in a way that allows them to review the chat logs and decide what exactly they want to donate, deleting undesirable pieces of data, up to the possibility of deleting time stamps and other meta-data. With that, the tool also allows researchers to track how much and what types of data was deleted.

Dr. Connie Moon Sehat presented the meta-review of closed messaging apps research that aimed to determine what are the conditions in terms of indexed invites, group size, discussion topics, or other aspects of closed groups that make them arguably public or private. Adding to the previous speakers’ examples of their research with activist/public and hobby and friends/private types of groups, the review summarized the discussed points and provided a framework for mapping chat groups according to the multiple parameters. Whether researchers scraped the groups without entering them, entered with invitation, disclosed or not their identity and research interest, depended on the nature of the groups and public interest that can justify researchers’ intervention into the closed communication spaces. Connie also stressed the possible differences in perceptions of groups’ “publicness” between users, researchers, and platforms, that also should be taken into account.

After four presentations, we continued the discussion with the online and offline audience, addressing the issues of generalizability of messaging data (what slice of the “natural” social interaction are we looking at here?), the role of language, and the differences between long- and short-term groups. We also discussed what is the role of the researcher in the automated versus manual data collection process, and how participants can benefit from data donation.

The workshop provided theoretical and practical insights for messaging groups research and outlined future directions for collaboration in creating the guidelines for ethical closed messaging research and data donation.

Workshop: Interdisciplinarity in Action: Methods for Fruitful Teamwork (October 4, 2023)

We are excited to announce our upcoming workshop, “Interdisciplinarity in Action: Methods for Fruitful Teamwork,” scheduled for Wednesday, October 4, at the Weizenbaum Institute. Led by Silvio Suckow and Sara Saba (both WI), this intensive one-day workshop provides practical tools and knowledge for enhancing teamwork and interdisciplinary collaboration. The workshop offers diverse perspectives and actionable advice for structuring interdisciplinary teams and their work, hands-on practice of various team-building methods, and an input presentation by an external speaker. It is open to anyone interested in interdisciplinary research, whether leading or collaborating on such projects. Please note that spots are limited and allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. A slightly modified online version of the course will be offered separately.

For more details about the workshop, visit our program page. We look forward to seeing you there!