The Power and Democracy Research Project was a five-year (2014-2018) research project at the School of Social Sciences, University of Iceland. It was established through a decision of the university council and funded by the University of Iceland Centennial Fund. It is a study of power and democratic governance in Iceland focusing on the legislature, executive and judicial powers, public policy and administration, as well as on the actors and participants in the system, such as political parties, interest groups, the media and the public. Power and democracy studies have been conducted in the other Nordic countries and the Icelandic study is guided to some extent by the Nordic studies, while also taking into account the specific conditions in Iceland, particularly the impact of the financial collapse in 2008. Neither the government nor parliament, however, had any part in forming the Icelandic study and the scale of the project is consequently more limited than in the other countries.
The Icelandic power and democracy study focuses on empirical research and emphasizes a multidisciplinary approach, involving scholars from different disciplines of social science. The empirical focus of the project is partly the result of its institutional association with the School of Social Sciences, reflecting the interests and research areas of social scientists at the University of Iceland. While the funds made available by the university were generous, they were insufficient to establish a centralised and integrated research project based on a preconceived mapping of needed research. Instead, it was decided early on to base the project on the research resources available at the School of Social Sciences and strengthen research which could be considered relevant to power and democracy.
Professor Gunnar Helgi Kristinsson, of the Faculty of Political Science, is the principal investigator of the power and democracy project. He was assisted by a project management team of four researchers from different branches of social sciences and by the Institute of Public Administration and Politics. Preparations for the research project began in mid-2013, and at the beginning of 2014 academic staff at the School of Social Sciences was invited to send in research proposals relevant to the project. The project ended up with 30 scholars and students from different faculties of the School of Social Sciences. There were also participants from other Schools within the University and scholars from universities in Europe and the United States have co-authored papers on research results. Given the decentralized nature of the project it was also clear early on that no attempt would be made to arrive at an overall conclusion or a concluding report, some of which have received considerable attention in the other Nordic states. Instead, the different products of the project are considered important contributions to knowledge on power and democracy in Iceland, without necessarily adhering to an integrated perspective or a theory which all participants subscribe to.
The themes covered in the study include: diversity and citizenship; political organisations and participation; democratic ideas and values; trust in government and corruption; elites and networks, the media and access to public information; constitutional arrangements and public policy. All published results are listed at the home page (forsíða) at this web site, most of which are in open access with links from the home page.