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Key aims of the research

  • We will be working in close partnership with the German Development Institute, one of the leading think tanks for global development policy worldwide, and a range of relevant governmental and non-governmental actors
  • There will be regular group meetings, two policy events in Brussels and Geneva and various policy papers for meetings and discussion
  • Development of an analytical data visualisation tool that will visualise our findings so that policymakers, activists and the general public can easily understand them
  • Dissemination of research findings to raise awareness of processes behind frames and how strategies impact public and policy debate

Research methodology

  • Discourse Network Analysis (DNA) is an application of social network analysis to policy debates, and it allows us to study the content of arguments together with the networks of actors. Using DNA, we will trace how frames emerge, by whom they are proposed, and whether and how they diffuse.
  • Interviewing of key actors to understand the reasons behind framing choices and the institutional context within which these choices occur.
  • Comparative analysis to study how frame production processes and diffusion patterns vary from one issue area to another.
  • Comparative, innovative, mixed-method methodology.
  • Dissemination of research findings via different media and data visualisation tools.

Case selection

  • Framing occurs mostly in contested issue areas and our cases need to be conflictual to yield potentially interesting results. Our research covers five main areas:
    Trade, Immigration, Environment, Global health, and Transparency
  • We selected these issue areas in order to ensure maximum variation (different set of actors, problems and power structures) and to build on the team expertise and networks.
  • Within each issue area, we chose two highly topical and evolving international debates to enable both within-issue-area comparisons and across-issue-area comparisons.


We study trade as a cross-cutting issue, as an anchor, because in a globalising world trade crosses into and interacts with several other areas. The political debates listed in the other issue areas are carefully selected to vary their link to trade. Some cases are closely linked to trade while others are not.


In this issue area, we study the following two political debates:

                            • European Migrant Crisis
                            • Modern slavery and forced (movement of) labour


In this issue area, we study the following two political debates:

                            • Trade in agricultural products (EU-Mercosur) and the climate impact of agriculture
                            • The impact of domestic climate measures on international competitiveness

Global Health

In this issue area, we study the following two political debates:

                            • Health data sharing
                            • Biobanking


In this issue area, we study the following two political debates:

                            • Facial recognition technology
                            • Disclosure of environmental impact