Freie Universität Berlin Lands Two European Research Council Starting Grants

ERC Starting Grants for Dr. Genia Kostka and Dr. Jan C. Jansen

No 254/2019 from Sep 05, 2019

Professor Genia Kostka, a researcher at the Institute of Chinese Studies at Freie Universität Berlin, and Dr. Jan C. Jansen from the German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C., who is currently a guest at Freie Universität Berlin, have been awarded generous Starting Grants by the European Research Council (ERC). Each grant provides up to 1.5 million euros in funding over a maximum term of five years. The goal of Dr. Kostka’s research project "Governing with Data: Local Experimentation in Authoritarian China" is to better understand how the Chinese government uses digital technologies in urban settings. Dr. Jansen’s project "Atlantic Exiles: Refugees and Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1770s-1820s" deals with the widespread refugee movements during this revolutionary period. The ERC Starting Grant format is aimed at excellent junior scholars and scientists. The grants help recipients start independent careers and build up their own research groups.

President of Freie Universität Berlin Günter M. Ziegler congratulated the two grant recipients. "It is a great distinction for you that you have won this highly competitive, Europe-wide competition and an honor for our university as the higher education institution hosting your projects." Ziegler pointed out that out of the 3,108 ERC grant projects submitted across the EU, only 408 (about 13 percent) ultimately received funding. The success is also noteworthy for Freie Universität in light of the 73 grants going to institutions in Germany in this round of approvals.

A B O U T  T H E  P R O J E C T S

  • Research program - Governing with Data: Local Experimentation in Authoritarian China, by Dr. Genia Kostka

With new information technologies and the rise of big data reshaping Chinese society, there is an urgent need to study the characteristics and forms of "digital governance" and its consequences. This is where Dr. Genia Kostka’s research project comes in.

"Digital technologies have direct effects on social, political, and economic life in Chinese society and around the world," Kostka explains. The "Digital Governance" project offers a unique opportunity to observe "natural experiments" in China’s advanced smart cities. "Using field research and surveys, we plan to analyze mechanisms through which digital technologies are integrated into local decision-making processes and governance structures." As the next step, the effects of new digital methods of governance on residents, companies, and the state will be investigated. The research findings should yield new empirical data that can serve as a basis for advancing how people think about newly emerging digital governance methods and assessing their benefits and risks. Kostka sees the project as a "contribution to debates beyond the context of China on the subject of social change in the course of advancing digitization."