Methodology and Methods

Netzwerk diff_coord
Figure: The figure shows to what degree countries reuse texts from old trade agreements in their newly negotiated trade agreement. The left part of the figure shows text diffusion across trade agreements that do not share the same members. The right part of the figure shows text diffusion across trade agreements that have similar member states (from working paper by Lechner and Rablen, 2019, “International Bargaining over Policy Innovation”).


About

We focus on disseminating and improving methods in political science. The aim is to identify and develop methods that answer political science questions as efficiently, effectively and transparently as possible. The team is primarily concerned with the quantitative collection and analysis of large amounts of data. The research process usually involves three steps: data collection, information gathering, and descriptive and inferential data analysis. Our agenda is based on these three phases:

Data Collection

The amount of data on the Web already exceeded the data volume of all libraries in the world in 2000 and is growing rapidly. We try to exploit this as researchers and gain a large part of our data through so-called "web scraping". We create technologies that enable the targeted download of data from the Internet.

Informational Retrieval

Since about 80 percent of information on the Web is text, computer-aided text analysis plays an important role in our research process. We scale texts according to specific dimensions (political ideology, progress versus stagnation in negotiations, etc.), measure citations and plagiarism among texts, and try to understand latent concepts in texts. All of this allows us to retrieve information, which is relevant for answering our questions, from large amounts of unstructured data.

Data Analysis

The team works with various statistical methods to analyze the data descriptively and inferentially. In addition to classical methods, such as regression analysis, we deal with network analysis. The coexistence of people and societies happens in networks. Special methods allow us to explore the dynamics in these networks.

 

Members

Ass.-Prof. Dr. Lisa Lechner (  website)

Ass.-Prof. Dr. Christian Traweger (  website)

Kohei Watanabe, PhD (  website)

 

Student assistants:

  • Georg Berger, BA
  • Christoph Ivanusch, BA
  • Marc Kuschick, BA
  • Sarah Weiler, BA


Current Projects

  • European Constitutional Court Network (ECCN)

    Lisa Lechner and Lando Kirchmair (University of Salzburg), 2019-2021

    Assistants: Georg Berger, Christoph Ivanusch, and Sarah Weiler

    Abstract:

    Constitutions contain the most important rules of our political systems and Constitutional Courts are the most powerful judicial institutions of European states. They are the guardians of the Constitutions and ensure, for instance, the respect for fundamental rights. Since the 20th century their importance is ever growing, which attracted a lot of interest from academia and beyond. Yet, despite numerous investigations, we know little about how different Constitutional Courts refer to each other. With the ECCN project, the researchers want to tackle this research gap.

    It is now broadly understood that Constitutional Court decisions rarely form in a vacuum. Sometimes European Constitutional Courts rely on judgements from other European Constitutional Courts. Yet, more work is necessary to explore the extent of this phenomenon. In the ECCN project, the research team will measure empirically, if, and if yes how often, say, the Austrian Constitutional Court quotes or simply adopts the reasoning of other European Constitutional Courts such as for instance the German, the Polish or the Spanish Constitutional Court.
    Due to the big and multilingual corpus of the different European Constitutional Court decisions from 1952 to today, this task is challenging. For a single person it would be very difficult to compare all decisions of European Constitutional Courts, because of all the different European languages and the mere quantity of texts. Yet, the research team uses modern computational methods to carry out the analysis. More specifically, the team relies on their expertise in automated text analysis methods to tackle this task. Beyond the measurement of the citation network, that is the network of direct quotes between Constitutional Courts, machine learning allows them to generate a network of semantic text similarities. Both, citations and semantic text similarity, can be measured in texts with varying languages.
    After digitalizing the ECCN, the following task is to explore conditions that explain patterns in this network. Hence, once the team has measured the network, they aim at explaining their results using inferential network analysis. With this approach, they do not only create original data, but also test established theories in a sophisticated and innovative way. In short, the project team digitalizes and explains the network of European Constitutional Court decisions.

    ECCN

  • Beyond English - Multilingual corpora and dictionaries for quantitative analysis of legal and political texts

    Lisa Lechner and Kohei Watanabe, 2019-2020

    Abstract:

    Quantitative text analysis, an application of natural languages processing technologies in social science research, is becoming increasingly popular because it allows researchers to investigate human activities recoded in political or legal documents, such as legislative speeches and international treaties, systematically using various statistical models. In an estimate, more than 80 percent of information about human activities is stored as text data. For more traditional approaches, where humans score texts, each additional text increases time and costs. In contrast, automated approaches, where computers score texts, list low variable costs. In this case, one additional text causes a negligible increase in time and money.
    Yet, researchers still face significant challenges in conducting quantitative text analysis. Two of the most outstanding challenges concern a) the difficulty in preparing and cleaning text files that are created from printed or typewritten documents, which tend to be untidy and with plenty of errors, and b) the difficulty in having appropriate dictionaries for text scoring. Both challenges are most pronounced for non-English cases.
    In general, researches who wish to perform cross-national analysis often find that either a dictionary or a corpus is missing for non-English speaking countries. Since both dictionary making and corpus construction are usually resource intensive tasks, researches often need to remove such country cases.
    With this project we aim to tackle these challenges. On challenge a), we will create a platform for corpus cleaning and with regard to challenge b), we test new methods for the creation of multi-lingual sentiment dictionaries and provide the resulting dictionaries to the public.

 

Current Publications

Cover Traweger Nomos 2019Traweger, Christian/Pallaver, Günther (2019): Verwaltungskooperation im Bewusstsein der Bevölkerung, in: Bußjäger, Peter/Happacher, Esther/Obwexer, Walter (ed.): Verwaltungskooperation in der Europaregion. Potentiale ohne Grenzen? (Grenz-Räume, 2), Baden Baden: Nomos Verlag, pp. 157-186.

 

 

 

Lechner, Lisa/Wüthrich, Simon (2018): Bargaining Positions, Institutional Design and the Duration of Preferential Trade Negotiations, in: International Interactions 44 (5), pp. 833-861.

Lechner, Lisa (2018): Good for some, bad for others: US investors and non-trade issues in preferential trade agreements, in: Review of International Organizations 13 (2), pp. 163-187.

Morin, Jean-Frédéric/Dür, Andreas/Lechner, Lisa (2018): Mapping the trade and environment nexus: Insights from a new dataset, in: Global Environmental Politics 18 (1), pp. 122-139.

Benoit, Kenneth/Watanabe, Kohei/Wang, Haiyan/Nulty, Paul/Obeng, Adam/Müller, Stefan/Matsuo, Akitaka (2018): Quanteda: An R package for the quantitative analysis of textual data, in: Journal of Open Source Software 3 (30).

Watanabe, Kohei (2018): Newsmap: A semi-supervised approach to geographical news classification, in: Digital Journalism 6 (3), pp. 294-309.

 

Cover Traweger Pallaver Euregio 2018Traweger, Christian/Pallaver, Günther (2018): Die Europaregion Tirol – Südtirol – Trentino in Bewegung. Erwartungen und Potentiale: Ergebnisse einer Bevölkerungsbefragung / L'Euregio Tirolo - Alto Adige - Trentino - una realtà in movimento. Aspettavive e potenziale: risultati di un sondaggio, Innsbruck: Studia Universitätsverlag.

 

 

Lankina, Tomila/Watanabe, Kohei (2017): ‘Russian Spring’ or ‘Spring Betrayal’? The Media as a Mirror of Putin’s Evolving Strategy in Ukraine, in: Europe-Asia Studies 69 (10), pp. 1526-1556.

Watanabe, Kohei (2017): Measuring news bias: Russia’s official news agency ITAR-TASS’s coverage of the Ukraine crisis, in: European Journal of Communication 32 (3), pp. 224-241.

Watanabe, Kohei (2017): The spread of the Kremlin’s narratives by a western news agency during the Ukraine crisis, Journal of International Communication 23 (1), pp. 138-158.

Lechner, Lisa (2016): The domestic battle over the design of non-trade issues in preferential trade agreements, in: Review of International Political Economy 23 (5), pp. 840-871.

Traweger, Christian/Pallaver, Günther (2016): Die Europaregion Tirol – Südtirol – Trentino in Bewegung. Erwartungen und Potentiale: Ergebnisse einer Bevölkerungsbefragung / L'Euregio Tirolo - Alto Adige - Trentino - una realtà in movimento. Aspettavive e potenziale: risultati di un sondaggio, Innsbruck: Studia Universitätsverlag.

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