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Tobias Escher

wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter

Dr. Tobias Escher
Universitätsstr. 1


I joined Heinrich-Heine-University Duesseldorf as a postdoc research fellow in late 2011 to support establishing a research cluster focused on the opportunities and limits of using the Internet for participation and collaboration on decisions and other collective goods. Currently I am the scientific coordinator of the recently established NRW Graduate School on Online Participation (undefinedNRW Fortschrittskolleg Online-Partizipation).

I hold a DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences from the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford where I have been studying and working since 2006. Before coming to Oxford I have been working as a Research Fellow at the undefinedDepartment of Political Science at University College London. I hold a Masters degree in undefinedGlobalisation and Communications from the University of Leicester. In addition, I have an extensive background in Media and Communication Studies as well as Computer Science from Freie Universität Berlin.


My academic work is focused on the use of Information and Communication Technologies for engagement in all domains of life. This involves political and civic participation, crowdsourcing and peer production both for-profit and non-profit as well as service delivery by governments or other institutions. My primary interest is in evaluating such participatory processes as a foundation for designing the appropriate tools, institutions and processes to achieve the desired outcomes. I have also been teaching a variety of courses on the subject of the undefinedInternet and participation.

  • online participation
  • evaluation
  • crowdsourding & peer production
  • design of participatory processes
  • eGovernment
  • political participation and representation
  • comparative analysis


Research & Publications

My doctoral research was an empirical analysis of German and UK e-democracy websites, assessing whether they bring in people not otherwise involved in political debate, or whether they simply reinforce the influence of those already active in politics. By taking a comparative perspective involving Germany and the UK this work assessed the potential of online contacts between citizens and representatives for reducing biases in political participation patterns and in this way for contributing to more equal political representation. My case studies were undefinedWriteToThem.com in the UK and undefinedAbgeordnetenwatch.de in Germany.

Further publications:

  • Petitioning the German Bundestag: Barriers to participation and political voice. Parliamentary Affairs. 2016. First published online - undefineddoi: 10.1093/pa/gsw009 (with U. Riehm)
  • An evaluation of quality and legitimacy of cooperatively developed university regulations. Policy & Internet. 2016. Early View - undefineddoi: 10.1002/poi3.119. (with J. Sieweke, D. Frieß, S. Dischner, K. Esau, U. Tranow and P. Hagemeister)
  • Der Einfluss von Online-Verfahren auf die Legitimität demokratischer Entscheidungen: Eine empirische Überprüfung am Beispiel inneruniversitärer Rechtsetzung. Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Politikwissenschaft. 2016,10(S2), p. 179-211. undefineddoi: 10.1007/s12286-016-0289-6 (with U. Rosar)
  • Mobilisierung zu politischer Partizipation durch das Internet: Erwartungen, Erkenntnisse und Herausforderungen der Forschung. In: Analyse und Kritik. 2013, 35(2), p. 449-476.
  • Social information and political participation on the internet: an experiment. In: European Political Science Review. 2011, 3(3), p. 321-344. (with H. Margetts, P. John and S. Reissfelder)
  • Wi(e)der die üblichen Verdächtigen? Politische Beteiligung via Internet. In: M. Emmer, M. Seifert and J. Wolling (eds.). Politik 2.0? Die Wirkung computervermittelter Kommunikation auf den politischen Prozess. München: Nomos, 2010, p. 131-150.
  • The Performance of Distributed News Aggregators. OII DPSN Working Paper series No. 9. Oxford Internet Institute. Oxford, 2008. (with W. Richter und D. Bray)

A selection of conference papers:

  • Internet-mediated cooperative norm setting in the university: design and evaluation of an online participation process to redraft examination regulations. Paper presented at Internet, Politics, Policy conference 2014. Oxford, 2014. (with J. Sieweke, U. Tranow, S. Dischner, D. Friess, P. Hagemeister and K. Esau)
  • Understanding Governments and Citizens On-line: Learning from E-commerce. Paper presented at Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA). Chicago, 2007. (with H. Margetts)
  • Governing from the Centre? Comparing the Nodality of Digital Governments. Paper presented at Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA). Philadelphia, 2006. (with H. Margetts, I. E. Cox and V. Petricek)
  • The Web Structure of E-Government – Developing a Methodology for Quantitative Evaluation. Paper presented at  15th International World Wide Web Conference. Edinburgh, 2006. (with V. Petricek, I. E. Cox and H. Margetts)

In addition, I have (co)produced a number of reports evaluating efforts in electronic participation. These include work for:

  1. the undefinedGerman Parliament (undefinedevaluating its platform for online petitions; with Zebralog)
    • Follow-up-Studie zu den Öffentlichen Petitionen des Deutschen Bundestages. Teilstudie 2: Befragung der Petenten und Fokusgruppen. Gutachten von Zebralog im Auftrag des Deutschen Bundestages für das Büro für Technikfolgen-Abschätzung beim Deutschen Bundestag (TAB). Berlin, 2010.
  2. the undefinedUK National Audit Office (evaluating the undefinedonline presence of UK government; with undefinedProf. Helen Margetts as well as the undefinedPublic Policy Group of LSE)
    • Department for Work and Pensions. Communicating with Customers. Report for the National Audit Office/Comptroller and Auditor General, HC 421 Session 2008-2009. The Stationary Office. London, 2009. (with P. Dunleavy, H. Margetts, S. Goldchluk, M. K. Khan, J. Tinkler, E. Towers and S. Reissfelder)
    • Government on the Internet. Report for National Audit Office/Comptroller and Auditor General, HC 529 Session 2006-2007. The Stationary Office. London, 2007. (with P. Dunleavy, H. Margetts, S. Bastow, O. Pearce and J. Tinkler)
  3. the undefinedOpen Society Foundations
    • Review of mySociety’s CEE mentoring initiative. Report for Open Society Foundations (OSF). New York, 2011.
  4. the UK Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit (research for the undefined“Power of Information” report)
  5. undefinedmySociety, a not-for-profit whose evaluation efforts I had been leading in the early days


I have been responsible for the development of the interdisciplinary teaching module Theory and Practice of Online-Participation. Since 2012 it brings together students from Computer Science, Political Science, Media Studies, Sociology and Economics to study the challenges of engaging people into participation via the Internet and apply this knowledge to practical examples. The modul consists of three courses:

  • a lecture on “Foundations of Online Participation” (winter term) covering the basic social and technical issues of online participation.
  • a seminar on “Online Participation: Empirical Case Studies” (winter term) during which students engage with a variety of real-world examples of online participation in different contexts and evaluate their results.
  • an exercise course on “Practical Application of Online Participation” (summer term) that provides students with the opportunity to apply their knowledge gained during the winter term to develop a concept for a participatory process

For more information see undefinedhere.

Visiting hours

Whenever I am present or by arranging a meeting via email.