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CIVICA Research – Hackathon Series – Democracy in the 21st Century

Online Event
Monday, June 13, 2022, 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Description of the event

The first two decades of the 21st century saw a proliferation of democracy indices and vivid professional debates about the conceptualization, operationalization, validity, reliability and global applicability of these measures. The current wave of “democracy with adjectives” poses a particularly severe challenge to quantitative tools of measurement. Is it possible to describe illiberal, populist, semi-authoritarian regimes and to capture incremental changes and nuances in consolidated liberal democracies with the same indicators and terminology? Should we develop new indicators for specific regions, specific regime-types and specific historical eras, or should we capitalize on the comparability of the existing longitudinal datasets, perhaps coming up with specific variants? Shall we relabel past categories or shall we rather construct new composite indices, relying on the same empirical data?

These are the questions in the focus of the next CIVICA Research Hackathon, organised by CIVICA institutional partners and hosted by at the Central European University (CEU) and its Democracy Institute (DI) as part of the CIVICA Research consortium hackathon series, under the CIVICA theme Democracy in the 21st Century.

The event will bring together researchers, students and interested individuals, based at CIVICA partner institutions and beyond, to engage with these pertinent questions. he first part of will feature a keynote speech and a panel discussion with relevant experts in the field of democracy measurement, before the opportunity is given to participants to present their proposals concerning how the existing indicators should be improved, combined or replaced.

How to join?

We expect short (2-3 pages long) papers containing a particular definition of democracy (or of a closely related concept), a proposal for its operationalization, and, if possible, the demonstration of the soundness of the proposed operationalization using existing measures.

We recommend the use of the variables to be found in the V-Dem Full+Others data-set (a list of recommended variables may be consulted at this address). The validity of the proposed measure can be illustrated with the help of scatterplots, correlations, cross-tabs, or exploratory factor analysis. Participants with advanced statistical skills may use latent variable models, confirmatory factor analysis/structural equation modeling or an item-response theory model.

Here comes a list of suggested topics, but participants are encouraged to come up with other, though similar, questions:

  • What is the better input: formal institutional criteria, expert judgments or some mixture of the two? If the latter, how would you combine the different approaches? Please indicate how your proposal compares to existing measures.
  • Is there a case to be made for citizens’ judgments or assessments?
  • Should the indexes reflect the changing social and political reality? To what extent can time-series and cross-country comparisons based on fixed formulas and weights lead to misleading conclusions?
  • How can informal practices be quantified?
  • Is there some advantage in developing region-specific indexes?
  • What new and/or non-mainstream indicators might you add to existing indices and why (ie environmental sustainability; discrimination etc)?
  • How would you include information about social media into the calculation of the indexes (you may consider the variables of Digital Society Project included into the V-dem dataset)?
  • How would you include information about democracy online into the calculation of the indices (freedom of expression online; internet shutdowns; fragmented internet etc)?

Participants may submit proposals individually or in a group of 2 or 3. Forming groups, particularly across several CIVICA institutions, is recommended. The deadline for submission is 9 June. The jury will read each submission prior to the hackathon event, and the solid proposals will be invited to be presented at the June 13 meeting. Presenters will receive feedback from peers on spot and from the jury in writing.

Participants are kindly requested to submit their proposals HERE.

Jury: The submissions will be evaluated by a panel of experts, including Zsolt Enyedi (CEU / DI), Ken Benoit (LSE), Michael Coppedge (University of Notre Dame), Matthijs Bogaards (CEU / DI), Juraj Medzihorsky (Durham University), Seema Shah (International IDEA), Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Merkel (WZB, CEU DI)

Participants: This event is open to students, researchers, academics and other interested citizens and professionals within and beyond the CIVICA alliance. The language of the event is English.

Please register here.

For more information please contact: Enyedizs[at]

In case of technical questions, please contact: mikolabalint[at]


Session 1 – An introduction into the methodological intricacies of democracy indicators

(14.00 – 15.50 CET)

The first part of the event will provide participants with theoretical insights into how some of the most well-established democracy indicators had been designed, how the scholarly community received them, what have been the most promising examples of their use, what sort of methodological problems have emerged during their implementation and how they were addressed.

The keynote address by Professor Michael Coppedge will provide an overarching context of democracy indicators and briefly present one of the most ambitious undertakings in the field, the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) project. The subsequent panel discussion will feature scholars and practitioners who use democracy indices in their analysis, as well as in constructing their own indicators that focus on specific subfields of democracy. The ensuing Q&A session will provide an opportunity for participants to seek advice or raise questions to all speakers about the process of index construction or particular indicators.

  • Keynote speech by Michael Coppedge, Professor, University of Notre Dame; Principal Investigator, Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Project (30 mins)

Panel discussion: How can we measure an ever-evolving concept: Critical perspectives on the measurement of democracy.  (60 mins + 15 mins Q&A)

The panel discussion will feature experts on democracy index construction and measurement, representing leading academic institutions and think-tanks active in this field.


  • Zselyke Csaky, Research Director for Europe, Media, and Democracy, Freedom House
  • Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Merkel, Director emeritus, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB), Senior Research Fellow, CEU Democracy Institute
  • Andreas Schedler, Senior Research Fellow at the CEU Democracy Institute, Lead Researcher of the De- and Re-Democratization
  • Ken Benoit, Director of the Data Science Institute and Professor of Computational Social Sciences, London School of Economics and Political Science

Session 2 – Innovations, refinements, and alternative solutions

(16.00 – 18.00 CET)

Participants are asked to present their submitted proposals on how the existing indicators should be improved, combined or replaced. Participants will also have the possibility to further elaborate their suggestions based on the feedback received from fellow participants. Groups will be encouraged to resubmit their refined projects after the workshop. Authors of selected works may be offered an opportunity to present their proposals at an upcoming CIVICA event.

  • Part 1 – Presentation of submitted proposals in breakout groups (45 mins)
  • Part 2 – Presentation of summaries in a joint session (30 mins)
  • Part 3 – Feedback provided by the convenors of the workshop (30 mins)
  • Part 4 – Q&A and discussing next steps, and potential resubmission (15 mins)