Wissenschaftsbarometer Schweiz (2016-2022)

The Wissenschaftsbarometer Schweiz (“Science Barometer Switzerland”, analyzes, how, on which channels and with which frequency Swiss citizens experience scientific issues based on their knowledge and attitudes regarding science. Based on a quantitative longitudinal study measuring this data every, it aims to shed light on the change of science communication and citizens' attitudes and reactions. The Wissenschaftsbarometer surveys the Swiss citizens every three years since 2016.

Project led by Prof. Dr. Mike S. Schäfer (University of Zurich), Prof. Dr. Julia Metag (University of Fribourg). Funded by Gebert Rüf Foundation, Foundation Mercator Schweiz und IKMZ – Dept. of Communication at University of Zurich.

CHESS: Center for Higher Education and Science Studies (2014-2022)

CHESS shapes public discourses about universities and science by researching and publishing reports on developments in these fields, consulting academic experts and organizing conferences and symposia. Its main goal is to organize the exchange between different researchers at the University of Zurich and strengthen collaborations between other Swiss and also international scholars.

Scientific Online Literacy. Concept Development and Application (2017-2020)

Science’s central role in modern society is increasingly leading to a steady influx of knowledge and corresponding information. Rising numbers of people are primarily looking for this information more frequently on the internet. Consequently, they encounter a flood of both high and low quality information stemming from both credible sources and those lacking in credibility. The ability to successfully find and understand the “best” scientific information on the internet provides a valuable resource to all citizens. The newly developed concept of Scientific Online Literacy incorporates this multidimensional skillset. The project’s main goal is to develop and validate a survey instrument to measure people’s scientific online literacy. On the one hand, it can be applied to evaluate education programs regarding science on the Internet and to explain effects of science communication. On the other hand, data on the distribution of this skillset throughout society can be obtained. This will inform policy makers in education, politics and science alike by highlighting disparities and potential for advancement.

Project led by Tobias Füchslin (University of Zurich). Funded by Forschungskredit der Universität Zürich.

Voicing Terrorism (2017-2019)

Terrorism and its imminent threat are a danger to societal solidarity. Nowadays, terrorism is not only present through its attacks, but part of a larger discourse of extremism, radicalization, war and religion. This study uses automatic content analysis to examine international media attention towards violent groups and whether these groups are discussed as terrorists. Using news coverage in more than 30 countries, it reveals that mediated visibility of terrorists is not only based on their attacks and media routines, but also on the political and social context of the reporting nations that actively decide to grant terrorists media access.

Project led by Prof. Dr. Mike Schäfer, Valerie Hase (University of Zürich); Assistant Professor Lea Hellmüller, Research Assistant Professor Peggy Lindner (University of Houston)​. Partly funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF)

APiKS – Academic Profession in the Knowledge-Based Society (2017-2020)

In 2017, the international study “Academic Profession in the Knowledge Society" (APIKS) started a broad international comparative survey of the working conditions in academia and the attitude of scientists. This survey is carried out for the third time – Switzerland being part of it for the second time after participating in 2007. The new study will involve research teams from at least 23 countries (Australia, Brazil, China, the UK, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea and the USA) from all over the world. The Swiss survey is conducted by a team of researchers from ZHAW (Zurich University of Applied Sciences) and CHESS (Center for Higher Education and Science Studies, University of Zurich).

Institutions of Higher Education in Zurich (2018-2019)

This explorative project aims at identifying relevant political, organizational and data related topics and questions that are significant for the ensemble of institutions of higher education within the Zurich area. The standardized interviews with leaders and representatives as well as experts within the institutions will focus on:

  • Chances and challenges of thematic overlaps and organizational intersections
  • Actual and possible future requirements for coordination between institutes of higher education
  • Potential of an intensified joint positioning of the institutes of higher education within the Zurich area on a national and international level

The results of this preliminary study will be discussed in a final workshop with the representatives of the institutes of higher education as well as the Head of the Office of the Canton of Zurich, Dr. S. Brändli.

Project led by Prof. Dr. Mike S. Schäfer (University of Zurich), Prof. Dr. Lucien Criblez (University of Zurich), Prof. Dr. Elena Wilhelm (Zurich University of Applied Sciences) with support by Anita Klöti (CHESS, University of Zurich) and Dr. Christian Wassmer (ZHAW - Zurich University of Applied Sciences).

Qualitative follow-up study «Wissenschaftsbarometer Schweiz» (2017-2018)

The project is a follow-up study connected to the «Wissenschaftsbarometer Schweiz». Based on an innovative, smartphone-diary method, it will collect concrete and individual data on the usage of science communication by different recipient types as identified by the «Wissenschaftsbarometer Schweiz». Questions under the microscope are for example: How and on which channel do people perceive scientific information? Which topics are recipients interested in and do they talk about? The respondents document their experiences with science based on comments and photos. Subsequently, these diaries will be discussed with the respondents in qualitative interviews and analyzed. 

Project led by Carmen Koch (ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences); Iris Herrmann, Mirco Saner (ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences); Julia Metag (University of Fribourg); Mike S. Schäfer (University of Zürich). Funded by Stiftung Mercator Schweiz.

Crowdfunding Science Festival (2018)

The crowdfunding of scientific projects represents a new interface between science and the larger public. It does not just finance projects, but it creates new communities and fosters dialogue between them. With the launch of the Science Booster in Switzerland (, this dialogue is specifically occurring between the researchers and the supporters. However, their interaction has been mainly of a digital nature up to now. We propose to organize a Science Crowdfunding Festival, where scientists that launched crowdfunding campaigns, donors – the so-called “backers” –, and an interested public can physically meet, exchange and critically reflect. During the festival, the audience and the researchers will learn about past campaigns, discover new ones, discuss project quality and funding criteria, meet researchers behind the projects, visit workshops, listen to talks and attend a gala ceremony where prizes for the best campaigns on the Science Booster, the best videos, as well as the most original rewards are handed out.

Project led by Prof. Mike S. Schäfer (University of Zürich) & Dr. Mirko Bischofberger (Science Studio). Funded by Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), Gebert Rüf Foundation, University of Zurich.

Climate Change Perceptions Among South African Publics (2017-2018)

Although public perceptions of climate change have been subject to numerous studies, research has had a dominant focus on developed countries. That is why our knowledge about people’s understanding of and attitudes towards climate change remains incomplete. What is lacking, in particular, is qualitative research in developing countries. Consequently, this study aims at contributing to a growing body of literature on this issue by analyzing people’s perceptions of climate change through semi-structured interviews with different segments of the South African population, carried out in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The project’s theoretical framework is Inglehart’s model of societal value change, which has described a correlation of material welfare with the development of postmaterial value sets among social groups, in turn, also resulting in a preference for environmental protection. Accordingly, we expect climate change to be a prioritized issue mainly for people with a certain level of wealth.

Project staff Dario Siegen, Dr. Lars Günther, MA Corlia Meyer, Prof. Dr. Mike S. Schäfer, Prof. Dr. Peter Weingart. Funded by CREST.

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Climate Change Communication(2015-2018)

Climate change requires multidisciplinary efforts to understand and improve societal decisions. To this end, over the past 25 years, a growing interdisciplinary community of social scientists, scholars, and professionals have focused on the factors that influence public understanding, perceptions, and behaviors relative to climate change; the nature of journalistic, media, and cultural portrayals and their effects; and the role that public communication, outreach and advocacy play in shaping societal decisions. There have also been well resourced and highly visible efforts to apply this research to inform, evaluate, and critically analyze the communication activities of experts, professionals, and advocates as they work to influence societal decisions related to climate change. To date, however, there does not exist a leading scholarly outlet or publishing platform where the broad range, diversity, and history of climate change communication, media and public opinion research is reviewed, synthesized, and critiqued. The approximately 200 articles across the three-curated volumes of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Climate Change Communication, Media, and Public Opinion will provide such perspective for a global community of specialists working in, and non-specialists familiar with and interested climate change (Link to project).

Project led by Matthew Nisbet, Shirley Ho, Ezra Markowitz, Saffron O'Neill, Mike S. Schäfer & Jagadish Thaker​. Funded by Oxford University Press.

Media effects on communication patterns of conflict opponents

The media often report on societal conflicts such as controversies regarding nuclear phaseout, refugees, or aircraft noise. While we know much about patterns of conflict reporting, little is known about how this reporting affects any side of these conflicts. Based on several studies, this projects analyzes the effects conflict reporting has on communication patters and intentions of conflict opponents (antagonists).

Project led by Dr. Senja Post (University of Zurich).

Comparative reputation research (2016-2018)

Reputation as an intangible asset has gained importance for communication practitioners and in academic research. Nevertheless, still very little is known about how the process of reputation formation takes place exactly. By using a comparative approach my dissertation wants to deliver insights on how the formation of media reputation is influenced by different media systems, the type of organisation under review and the stakeholders involved in the process.

The first focus lies on the comparison of media systems. When using the concept of media reputation with an international comparative approach, differences in the media systems get into focus of research. The guiding question is how do different societal factors i.e. journalism cultures or media economics influence the process of media reputation. Results for Swiss and US banks and pharmaceutical companies show that especially the social aspects of reputation are dependent of media system variables.

The second focus lies on the comparison of organisation types. Reputation studies often analyse economic organisations, mostly firms. Studies that compare different types of organisation are however scarce. Universities are especially interesting research objects as rankings like the shanghai ranking get more and more important for academic organisations and reputation turns into a valuable strategic asset. The reputation of universities is therefore a main focus of this project.

The third focus lies on the comparison of the stakeholders involved in the process of reputation formation. Reputation is often measured via tonality or sentiments in various kinds of text. Studies often neglect that different stakeholder groups are involved in the formation of media reputation by using different channels. Results for the Swiss financial industry show that especially crisis periods are breaking points. For the Swiss banks an increased presence of political parties and regulators in the crisis led to a politicization of reputation.

Project led by lic. phil. Daniel Vogler. Funded by fög – Forschungsinstitut Öffentlichkeit und Gesellschaft

Transnational political publics? The example of climate politics (2015-2018)

For decades, the analysis of public spheres has been a core field in communication science and neighboring disciplines. Against the backdrop of a general transnationalization and globalization of the social sphere, communication scholars have increasingly paid attention to transnational forms of public sphere(s). This study analyzed journalistic coverage and internet debates about climate change policy.

​Project led by Prof. Dr. Mike Schäfer; Prof. Dr. Katharina Kleinen-von Königslöw; Dr. Senja Post. Funded by Schweizerischer Nationalfond.

Climate Change Communication Online: Comparing Established and New Platforms in Six Countries (2015-2016)

Research conducted by the Reuters Institute DNRs in 18 countries show that new online news sources like Huffington Post, Vice News and BuzzFeed are favoured news sources for young persons (18-34 years). The same data also showed that 35% of these young persons stated that science and technology news was among the five most important news topics for them. Hence, it is relevant to study which information is provided regarding science and technology on these new online plattforms. This international research projects sets out to answer the question if there are significant differences in the volume and nature of coverage of climate change between legacy media and new digital natives. The study uses the World Climate Summit in Paris 2015 as a case study and not only compares legacy media with new digital natives but also conducts a country comparison, including France, Germany, Poland, Spain, UK and the US.

Project led by Dr. James Painter with Prof. Dr. Mike S. Schäfer, Dr. des. Silje Kristiansen. Funded by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford.

Recipient survey: UZH Kommunikation (2016)

The University of Zurich publishes the UZH magazine, the UZH journal and the UZH online news frequently and thereby produces journalistic content that is often used. The IKMZ now surveys readers of these outlets to evaluate these publications and gather audience feedback.

Project led by Prof. Dr. Mike S. Schäfer, M.A. Tobias Füchslin (University of Zurich)​. Funded by UZH Kommunikation.

Perception of Climate Change Visuals. A Q-Study in Austria, Germany and Switzerland (2014-2015)

Prevalent in mass media worldwide, climate change imagery appears to be similar across countries. Replicating a study from the US, UK and Australia, we analyze whether these images are perceived similarly in Switzerland, Germany and Austria. 75 respondents sorted images with respect to their perceptions of salience and self-efficacy (Q method). They associated images of climate change impacts with salience, while they related imagery of renewable energies and mobility to self-efficacy. Our findings suggest that perceptions of climate change visuals are consistent cross-culturally; meanwhile, frequently-used imagery in media is rarely associated with feelings of salience or self-efficacy.

Project led by Dr. Julia Metag (University of Fribourg), Prof. Dr. Katharina Kleinen-von Königslöw (University of Hamburg), Prof. Dr. Mike S. Schäfer (University of Zurich) with Tjado Barsuhn, Universität Hamburg; Tobias Füchslin, Universität Zürich. Funded by Bundes-Exzellenzcluster „CliSAP“, Universität Hamburg, und IPMZ - Institut für Publizistikwissenschaft und Medienforschung der Universität Zürich.

Media and Risk. A Phase Model Explaining Media Attention to Nuclear Energy Risk (2011-2017)

The nuclear energy accident in Fukushima, Japan 2011 changed the way people, policy and media perceive and deliberate the risk of nuclear energy. My dissertation set out to answer the questions how two Swiss quality newspapers cover risk, specifically the nuclear energy risk, and in which ways the coverage changed after Fukushima, as well as whether phases - in a "risk attention phase model" - can be identified in this coverage over time (2010-2015). By adapting a broad risk understanding and by decomposing the concept "risk" into "risk components", this study was able to address several research gaps in the field of risk communication and to deepen the understanding regarding which risk components are covered when by the media. The study argues that risk includes a decision, different benefits and detriments, and that the benefits as well as the detriments come with a certain degree or severity, probability of occurrence and uncertainty. The results suggest that there are phases to risk coverage, which can be defined by the risk components media coverage focuses upon at a certain point in time. The risk attention phase model and its empirical analysis contributes to the field of risk communication research, which, by using this model can gain further knowledge on how media, recipients and societies deal with risks. Further, in the light of these results, it is interesting to consider when societies make risk decisions. The outcome of such risk decisions might be influenced by the risk attention phase media is in at that point in time, and it might fall out differently depending on the current phase.

Project led by Dr. des. Silje Kristiansen.