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Digitization and Democracy

Democracy is a fundamental element of liberal societies. To be sustainable, democracy must continue to develop with a constantly changing society. Digitalization plays an important part in current social developments, but also in meeting the challenges of democracy.

Digital technologies expand the possibilities of social, economic and political organization in many ways. This is currently noticeable not only as a structural change affecting the general public but also as a change in democratic processes and forms of political communication. This change is observed with concern by politicians and the general public. It is feared that the use of digital media will influence the shaping of political opinions and lead to election manipulation. The power of transnational social networks and platforms is also a subject of this discussion. On the one hand, these platforms have contributed decisively to lowering the barriers of participation and have created new opportunities for public communication. On the other hand, the business model of such platforms leads to extensive monitoring and algorithmic curating of social life. Although the selection mechanisms of such algorithms greatly influence the flow of public information, their mode of operation is nontransparent.

Given the significance on democracy attributed to digital media, the working group is concerned with individual aspects of this relationship. The objective is to assess the current change in terms of new ways to strengthen and expand political self-determination, but also to look at the existing risks to derive recommendations for action for politics and society. The working group will concentrate in particular on issues related to the public realm because this is where the greatest potential for change is currently suspected.


  • German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina (responsible)
  • Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities (responsible)
  • German National Academy of Science and Engineering acatech

Spokespersons of the Working Group

  • Prof. Dr. Katrin Böhning-Gaese ML, Senckenberg Biodiversität und Klima Forschungszentrum, Frankfurt
  • Prof. Dr. Alexandra Maria Klein, Professur für Naturschutz und Landschaftsökologie, Universität Freiburg
  • Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wägele, Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander König, Bonn

Members of the Working Group

  • Prof. Dr. Helge Bruelheide, Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Lehrstuhl Geobotanik
  • Dr. Carsten Brühl, Universität Koblenz-Landau, Institut für Umweltwissenschaften
  • Prof. Dr. Olaf Christen, Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Professur Allgemeiner Pflanzenbau / Ökologischer Landbau
  • Prof. Dr. Jens Dauber, Thünen-Institut, Institut für Biodiversität, Braunschweig
  • Prof. Dr. Michaela Fenske, Universität Würzburg, Institut für Kulturanthropologie
  • Dr. Annette Freibauer, Bayerische Landesanstalt für Landwirtschaft - Institut für Agrarökologie, Freising
  • Prof. Dr. Bärbel Gerowitt, Universität Rostock, Professur Phytomedizin
  • Dr. Andreas Krüß, Bundesamt für Naturschutz, Abteilung Ökologie und Schutz von Fauna und Flora, Bonn
  • Dr. Sebastian Lakner, Universität Göttingen, Department für Agrarökonomie und Rurale Entwicklung
  • Prof. Dr. Tobias Plieninger, Universität Göttingen, Department für Agrarökonomie und Rurale Entwicklung & Universität Kassel, Fachbereich Ökologische Agrarwissenschaften
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Potthast, Universität Tübingen, Internationales Zentrum für Ethik in den Wissenschaften
  • Prof. Dr. Sabine Schlacke, Universität Münster, Institut für Umwelt- und Planungsrecht
  • Prof. Dr. Ralf Seppelt, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung, Leipzig, Department Landschaftsökologie
  • Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Weisser, TU München, Lehrstuhl für terrestrische Ökologie

ML = Member of the Leopoldina




Dr. Elke Witt

Scientific Officer, Department Science - Policy - Society

Phone 0345 - 47 239 - 873
Fax 0345 - 47 239 - 839
E-Mail elke.witt @leopoldina.org



Dr. Henning Steinicke

Scientific Officer, Department Science - Policy - Society

Phone 0345 - 47 239 - 864
Fax 0345 - 47 239 - 839
E-Mail henning.steinicke @leopoldina.org