The Methods Lab is the central unit for supporting, connecting, and coordinating the methods training and consulting at the Weizenbaum Institute. Besides assisting ongoing research projects of the research groups and units, the lab also conducts methods research and develops tools for the collection and analysis of digital data.
The Weizenbaum Institute relies on a variety of very different methods due to its interdisciplinary nature. Among those methods are standardized surveys and qualitative interviews, manual and automated content analyses, participatory observations, focus groups, model and process analyses, simulations, automated tracking, network analyses as well as social media and big data analyses. Furthermore, in the context of internet and social media research, new methods for storing, archiving, and providing data are necessary.
The overall aim of the Methods Lab is to strengthen the Institute’s methodological profile and to ensure its excellent data production in all research groups and units. In its function as the central unit for supporting, connecting, and coordinating the methods training and consulting at the Weizenbaum Institute, the Methods Lab supports the ongoing research projects by organizing workshop and trainings. To this end, the lab will connect with other digitalization institutes, infrastructure organizations, and other partners. Furthermore, another goal is to develop tools and other applications for science, political actors, and for the general public.
The Methods Lab focuses on three areas:
- Methods training: By relying on the methodological expertise within the Weizenbaum Institute as well as by bringing in experts from the outside, the lab organizes methods workshops and trainings. For this purpose, the Weizenbaum Institute already cooperates with the Center for Advanced Internet Studies (CAIS) and the Bavarian Research Institute for Digital Transformation (bidt) with which a joint training program for digitalization research is developed.
- Methods consulting: The methods training is accompanied by offering consulting for the research groups and units, for instance in the context of preparing studies; or for the dissertation projects of the researchers at the Weizenbaum Institute. This consulting can take different forms such as coordinating the methods expertise within the institute, organizing expertise coming from outside of the institute, or developing and providing specific training material (tutorials).
- Methods research and tool development: Alongside ongoing research projects by the institute’s research groups and units, the Methods Lab will conduct methods research as well. For example, the researchers at the lab will develop tools and applications so that data sets and research findings emerging from the institute can be searched through and used by other researchers, politicians, and citizens. Furthermore, innovative data collection tools are developed and made available for other researchers.