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Unique discussion la­boratories at Åbo Akademi University ready for use

New laboratories for studying discussions and opinion formation have recently been completed in the ASA building at Åbo Akademi University.

The new discussion laboratories, or deliberation laboratories as they are called, are part of the Finnish Research Infrastructure for Public Opinion (FIRIPO) consortium, which is part of the ecosystem of nationally important research infrastructures. The Academy of Finland has financed the infrastructure with around EUR 800,000.

Research infrastructure refers to instruments, devices, data networks, databases, materials and services that enable research.

The FIRIPO consortium is led by Kimmo Grönlund, professor of political science at Åbo Akademi University. The University of Turku and the University of Tampere are partners in the project.

– FIRIPO serves a wide range of scientific branches and opinion researchers primarily in Finland but also internationally, and can also be used to obtain useful information for decision makers, the media and the public. For example, we will be able to analyse changes in public opinion through extensive panel data, respondents who answer surveys online, says Grönlund.

Kimmo Grönlund
The laboratories are also very well suited for teaching in seminar form, says Kimmo Grönlund.
Conference room
The idea has been to create an environment where all participants can be seen and heard equally well.

The new laboratories in ASA consist of two large conference rooms with four round tables, with twelve seats each, equipped with the latest video conferencing technology. The walls in the conference rooms are lined with sound-absorbing curtains, the floors with sound-absorbing carpets, the colours are soft, the light is even and speakers can generate a counter sound that dampens any noise.

– As far as we know, these are the first laboratories of their kind in the entire world. The idea has been to create an environment that is as inclusive and equal as possible, free from external interference, where all participants can be seen and heard equally well.

– We learned from the pandemic and acquired technology for hybrid meetings and experiments, including more and better cameras, so that it is also possible to participate remotely on as equal terms as possible. The experience is definitely better than a regular Zoom meeting, and it will be particularly interesting to see how well the hybrid discussions and meetings go in practice, says Grönlund.

The laboratories are primarily intended for research, but can also be made available for other purposes, mainly within Åbo Akademi University at first, but in the long run, also for outsiders. Those interested can contact FIRIPO’s co-ordinator Rasmus Sirén. The laboratories will eventually be moved to Stjärnan when the academy relinquishes the ASA building.

Read more about FIRIPO.