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The User Community of the PIREDEU Study

The user community includes an academic community of scholars and researchers, and a community outside academia that comprises mainly political practitioners and commentators.

The academic user community consists mainly of political scientists, but also communication scientists, political sociologists, social psychologists and political economists. As far as the political science community is concerned, perhaps as many as a thousand political scientists are members of the three major professional organizations associated with the voting and elections subfield - the Representation and Electoral Systems Section of the American Political Science Association (APSA), the Elections, Public Opinion and Voting Section of the same association, and the Elections, Parties and Public Opinion Section of the British Political Studies Association (PSA). Other social scientists in the user community of this project include particularly communication scientists who work in the subfield of political communication, which focuses on the effects of political communications on audiences. Electoral contexts are amongst the most popular to be studied in this field, involving at least two sections in the International Communication Association: ‘political communication’ and ’mass communication’. The infrastructure to be developed in PIREDEU is particularly relevant to this group as the field of political communication is increasingly oriented to comparative research. Although the interest in electoral processes is less central in other social science disciplines, it does command considerable attention in political sociology (particularly with respect to the linkage between elections and social cleavages) and political economy (particularly in relation to so-called political business cycles). Many social psychologists are also interested in (comparative) electoral studies as these provide ideal opportunities for studying the interaction between individual behaviour, group behaviour and reference groups, and variety in (cultural) context.
The community outside academia is large and diverse. It consists of all those institutions and individuals who have a professional interest in elections and electoral processes. One segment of this extra-academic user group is centered around political parties: elected office holders, party officials, campaigners, and those working in research institutes and think-tanks connected to political parties. A slightly different group consists of those representing social groups and organized interests and who equally have a stake in the outcome of elections, and sometimes in providing their members with relevant information and advice (labour unions, employer organizations, churches, sundry cause groups, formal lobbyists, etc.). Another component consists of media organisations and journalists who provide audiences (the mass audience as well as more specialised and targeted audiences) with information on elections. Finally there is a plethora of firms (mainly, but not exclusively, SME's) that cater to the rest of the extra-academic user community (market research companies, media an campaign specialists, consultancy firms, etc.).

We will consult this user community, through an open procedure, on this website and during user community conferences, about their research needs and preferences in order to take these needs and preferences into account when designing the data collection instruments to be used in any resulting infrastructure. This same consultation exercise will form the basis for a planned procedure for consulting the user community in building and extending the infrastructure itself, and will constitute a pilot study for that procedure. In addition, we will develop procedures for collecting, processing, unifying, amalgamating, harmonizing and distributing the data that would enable researchers in a variety of subfields to directly access the data collected in the pilot study and in any future infrastructure. In this connection the pilot study will itself directly benefit the user community even as it enables us to evaluate the adequacy of the proposed designs.

The design study teams contain members of three academic disciplines: political science, sociology, and communications science. Our user community, however, extends well beyond these three academic disciplines to include economists, lawyers, historians (particularly future historians), and members of the public. To ensure widespread consultation with this user community we have assembled a group of experts representing survey researchers from every country in the EU and including representatives of the law and economics academic disciplines.

Page updated: 5/03/08
Funded by the European Union's 7th Framework Programme