Professor Graham Smith involved in $2m collaborative research program sponsored by University of Connecticut’s Humanities Institute

Politics and International Relations 21 February 2017

Graham Smith

Professor Graham Smith, Professor of Politics in the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster, is part of a $2 million collaborative research programme investigating how to improve the quality of debates on online news comments platforms.

The University of Connecticut’s Humanities Institute, together with the John Templeton Foundation, is sponsoring the research with a $2m fellowship grant to support innovative projects that will explore the broken landscape of public discourse and aim to create enduring strategies to promote open-minded debates. The Westminster project has been allocated $225K.

This program includes ten interdisciplinary research projects, from across the world, focusing on two key features of democracy: intellectual humility and conviction of belief. Each project will investigate how networks and institutions, meant to connect us, may be pushing people apart.

Over two years, ten individual projects will explore different questions aimed at improving and revitalising public discourse as well as promoting humility at individual and institutional levels.

Westminster’s Professor Graham Smith, Principal Investigator of the Scholio research project, will examine the question: “Can online news comments sections be designed to promote intellectually humble discourse?” 

Professor Smith will be working with Professor Michael Morrell from the University of Connecticut, and Dr Paolo Spada from the Centre for Social Studies at the University of Coimbra in Portugal.

Professor Graham Smith explains: ‘We are delighted to have been funded by the University of Connecticut to investigate how dysfunctional behaviour on digital comments platforms can be ameliorated. The Scholio project will be undertaking large scale experiments with novel online platforms that visualise arguments and differences of opinion in innovative ways. The expectation is that they will support more reasonable and considerate interactions between participants. But that’s to be tested! Our research has obvious potential impact on the way that media organisations engage their readers, as well as broader lessons for digital democracy.”

Find out more about this project on the University of Connecticut’s Humanities institute official website

Find out more about the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster


About the University of Westminster:

The University of Westminster boasts a vibrant learning environment attracting more than 20,000 students from over 150 nations and we continue to invest in our future with new developments, research projects and new ideas.

We offer highly attractive practice-based courses that are independently rated as excellent, many with international recognition. Our distinguished 175-year history has meant we lead the way in many areas of research, particularly politics, media, art and design, architecture and biomedical sciences, and our position in the city of London allows us to continue to build on our close connections with leading figures and organisations in these areas as well as in the worlds of business, information technology, politics and law.

Our commitment to educating graduates for the needs of professional life attracts high quality students from within the UK and around the globe.

Internationalisation, employability and sustainability are key elements in the University of Westminster’s vision for the future and we strive to ensure the very highest standards are met and maintained.


For the media


For the media

Here we hope you find everything you will need to research, write and publish your story or blog post.

Press office

Please contact our press team for any media enquiries regarding University of Westminster on

T: +44 (0)20 3506 9464
M: +44 (0)7970 483 778 (Out of hours)
E: [email protected]