Chen's research focuses on civic engagement and the politics of information. In particular, she examines how different civic engagement methods, such as digital crowdsourcing, online government-citizen forums, deliberative mini-publics, influence the ability of government to collect reliable information from citizens and how these methods can facilitate deliberative political dialogues. She combines computational and experimental methods to collect and analyze large-scale datasets on political activity in the United States, China, and Africa to examine these questions. Besides research, she has done consultant work for local governments in both China and the United States.
Challenges the skeptics on the belief that ordinary citizens cannot reason about politics. Shows that the mass public, even those disadvantaged in socioeconomic status, can reason as substantively as the mass public in the most advanced nations.
Examines the impact of citizen voices in crowdsourced policy making. Points out the big data challenge facing local governments.
Uses machine learning methods to reveal the information manipulation by local governments in reporting public sentiments in China.
Examines the values of crowdsourcing in public policymaking.