Seed Grant Projects 2021

Photo by Louis Droege



What was known? Out-of-home placement in Swiss media in the 20th century

What was known


Until well into the 20th century, tens of thousands of children and adolescents were placed in foster families or homes as free labor by the Swiss state. It was not until the beginning of the 21st century that a broad public began to take an interest in this “dark chapter” of Swiss welfare history, resulting not only in a social, but also a scientific reappraisal of the issue. To date, however, one of the key questions of out-of-home placement – what was made public about the actions of the authorities and the living conditions of the children in foster care – has been left out of scholarly debates.

This is where the project What was known? sets in. The aim of the project is to reconstruct media debates on the issue of out-of-home placement in 20th-century Switzerland. The focus is on a qualitative and quantitative content analysis of supraregional German-language daily newspapers. The Citizen Science project aims not only to contribute to strengthening participatory research on the issue of out-of-home placement in 20th-century Switzerland, but also to work on source material that has hardly been considered so far.

The conception as a Citizen Science project is meant to make it possible, on the one hand, to arrive at representative findings by analyzing large amounts of data and, on the other hand, to test a new participatory form of cultural reappraisal of the controversial issue at hand. The project offers various interest groups the opportunity to participate and is intended to make an innovative contribution to political education through its collaborative approach.

For further information and inquiries regarding participation, please contact Dr. Michèle Hofmann.

Long Covid Citizen Science Board

Long Covid


Long Covid is a novel syndrome resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. A plethora of questions remain about the disease course, diagnostics and best treatment options but also how to best prepare health care and social services. A lot of research on Long Covid has emerged worldwide but research agendas have been developed mostly by experts and authorities. If the medical research community relies on this “status quo” of setting research agendas, we have no way to know a priori the relevance of the data generated for persons affected by Long Covid.

The needs of people affected by Long Covid have not yet been systematically identified, nor is it clear what research questions should be prioritized to meet those needs and advance care for persons affected by Long Covid. This project pursues two research aims: First, we seek to establish a research agenda prioritized by persons affected by Long Covid. Second, we aim to develop a framework for co-creating a research agenda with citizen scientists that is transferable to other diseases.

We will first establish a 30-citizen board of people affected by Long Covid or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, who then define research priorities to address knowledge gaps. The broader community of patients affected by Long Covid and of relatives will be involved through established networks of the Altea Network and Long Covid Schweiz. The identified research priorities will be communicated to national funding bodies and the public. Finally, based on the process and learnings from this project we will develop a framework for creating a citizen-driven research agenda, suitable for transfer to other diseases.

For further information and inquiries regarding participation, please contact Prof. Dr. Milo Puhan.


B3 - Bienen, Baumscheiben und Bestäubung



Insect pollinators play an invaluable role with ca. 80% of wild and cultivated plants depending on their pollination. However, the last half century has witnessed a dramatic decline in insect abundance as part of an accelerating biodiversity crisis. In Switzerland, around half of all bee and butterfly species are threatened according to the Swiss Red List. This decline has been especially felt in cities where a lack of pollen and habitat fragmentation threaten urban biodiversity. Yet, with proper design and management, cities can be a refuge for pollinators.

Small vegetation patches now make up the majority of public green spaces in densifying cities. Recent research has revealed the overlooked and underestimated plant diversity and ecological value of these small green spaces. We can create greener more biodiverse cities by promoting species which can thrive in our cities and by creating space for natural regeneration by species already here. In our citizen science project B3 – Bienen, Baumscheiben und Bestäubung ("bees, pollination, stem discs"), we utilize and expand upon previous research to test if higher than expected plant diversity also results in high abundance and functional diversity of pollinators. Working with the extensive StadtWildTiere network, our project joins with volunteers to undertake a pollinator survey across the city of Zurich.

Volunteers are trained to identify a selection of insect pollinators with a special focus on wild bees and butterflies. They then go out into the urban jungle (along green tram lines, street tree discs, and larger wildflower meadows) to identify and record flower visitors to their chosen patch. Over the summer months, they return to their patches and see how their visitors change over the seasons and with the mowing/maintenance of the green space. With this data, we can then analyze how patch size, connectivity, and flower diversity affect pollinator biodiversity.

The project hopes to reconnect an urban population with the ecology and beauty of mutualistic plant-pollinator interactions in front of their homes and reveal the potential of their local green spaces as part of a larger urban network and ecosystem. We hope to change/expand people’s perceptions of cities as complex ecosystems and their responsibility to care for them. To make our cities the best habitats for us, we must first see ourselves as just another species making our homes here. The only difference is that we have the power to make our homes better for all through designing, planting, sowing, and supporting our fellow city dwellers.

For further information and inquiries regarding participation, please contact Anouk Taucher & Dr. Sandra Gloor or visit the project website.


Digital Meal: We are what we consume. But what do we consume?

Digital Meal


Over 90% of Swiss adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 use social media on a daily basis. In doing so, they are confronted with an overwhelming offer of media content, which continuously confronts them with selection decisions. Depending on personal tastes and preferences, these selection decisions result in very different digital meals, which can be more or less digestible.

While the organizations behind the social media platforms have a detailed insight into the habits, preferences, and decision-making processes of the users, these insights are largely denied to outsiders. Both academic research and the users themselves often lack the necessary data to analyse and scrutinize usage behaviour.

To change this, the Data Donation Lab at the University of Zurich is building an infrastructure that enables users to obtain their usage data from the platform operators, analyse it themselves, and share it voluntarily with researchers. The project “Digital Meal”, supported by the Participatory Science Academy, builds on this Citizen Science approach and develops an interactive learning module for young people in vocational schools, upper secondary schools and secondary schools. By formulating their own research questions, analysing their own data, and comparing it with fellow learners, they can reflect on their own media use. At the same time, sharing data with researchers creates the basis for novel insights into young people's media use.

The learning module will be developed in a participatory process with learners, experienced teachers from the field of media education and researchers from University of Zurich and will be available to all teachers and interested persons after completion. In addition to the technical tools for evaluating the data, the module will also include teaching materials, teacher comments, and teaching aids that can be used in general education classes, in the "Medien und Informatik" classes or other classes.

More information:


Border violations and substance use are common counselling topics in Open Youth Work



The youth workers contacted the addiction prevention office with a request for methods and knowledge on these topics. A peer project was created from these inputs. The JA staff members already have experience with the peer approach. The actors involved see great potential with this approach to carry out educational work for young people in the field of violence and addiction.

Within the scope of the Peer2Peer project, a participatory approach to addiction prevention in adolescence is to be developed and tested. A first group of young people was involved in the youth work at the GZ Hirzenbach and the project was launched. Other topics, such as “fun bats” and violence on the Internet, were raised by the young people. The themes identified by the young people are discussed in equal discussion groups between young people and adults and ideas are developed on how to exchange the themes identified with other young people. The aim is that health promotion can take place among the young people themselves and that the relevant specialist bodies can be contacted if necessary.

At the same time, the possibilities of a peer project in the schools around the GZ Hirzenbach are being explored. In the interest of young people, a strategy paper on peer-based prevention and education measures could be drawn up. One result could be the development of a school mentor programme or the integration of new modules into existing social competence training. In addition, young people should be involved in the planning process and not just in the counselling process. This completely participatory approach, involving young people at an early stage in the development of health and prevention issues, is largely a novelty. For practice as well as for science, the actors hope to gain comprehensive insights into the design of participatory approaches, as well as health-promoting measures from a youth perspective.

For further information and inquiries regarding participation, please contact Dörte Wurst.

Science communication by laypersons for laypersons

Science Communication


What would science communication look like if the people who have so far ‚only’ been its recipients could shape it actively as ‘producers’?

To answer this question, this project cooperates with the Swiss Science Center Technorama, which pursues the goal of getting its visitors in touch with science via direct sensual encounters with natural phenomena. Even though the visitors play an active role here when compared to other museums, communication in the exhibition remains largely a one-way street: The text which accompany the hands-on exhibits at the Technorama describe and explain the experienced phenomena from a scientific perspective.

This project intends to open up this one-sided form of communication. For this purpose, visitor workshops of about 45 minutes will be developed in which participants will be able to experience a specific natural phenomenon by means of a hands-on exhibit. Afterwards, they will be asked to draft texts in which they share their experience with other visitors. These texts will later be integrated into the exhibition at the Technorama.

In addition, video material created in these workshops will reconstruct the strategies visitors use to communicate about scientific phenomena by conversation analytic means. Finally, all workshop participants will be invited to a half day event on a weekend.

Based on this input and the teams conversation analytic expertise, the following questions will be answered empirically:

  • Which linguistic and bodily strategies do visitors use to communicate their experiences with scientific phenomena?
  • Which scientific topics are important to them? How exactly do they relate science to themselves, their identities and their every-day lives?
  • Which image of science grounds the didactic activities of the workshop participants?
  • Are there any differences between the explicit conceptions of science the participants express during the workshop and the implicit conceptions that can be reconstructed from their didactic efforts during the 45 minute workshops?

In addition, the participants of the weekend workshop will have the possibility of being involved in the development of a second phase of short workshops. This way, the short workshops can be adapted towards the real needs and wishes of the visitors.

This project radicalises a current trend in the research on science communication by treating lay persons as people who can be active communicators in science communication instead of people who must first be educated (‘from deficit to dialogue’). In doing so, visibility of linguistics in this research area will be increased and contribute to an emerging field of linguistic research.

At the same time, this project enables citizens to get involved in science communication based on their individual experience. This also opens up new possibilities for the Technorama to radically rethink its role as an institution of science communication.

For further information and inquiries regarding participation, please contact Dr. Wolfgang Kesselheim.