Over the summer of 2015, we provided eight Research Grant Awards to students with diverse academic backgrounds, including political science, geography, and anthropology. We asked award-winners to report on the progress of their research. Their responses epitomize the vast range of interest and the potential to impact both policy and people’s lives that characterizes scholarship at the Ostrom Workshop.
Political science Ph.D. candidate David Endicott used his grant to travel to India, where he laid the groundwork for his dissertation research on fiscal federalism and distributive politics. Interviewing politicians, journalists, and labor activists in Delhi, Chennai, and Kolkata, David was able to ask questions and have conversations that generated information that wasn’t readily available in the literature.
As a result, David identified a critical research question: how does funding at the local, state, and national levels impact the behavior of political actors? When he returns to India, David will leverage the connections he forged over the summer to gather the data that will allow him to answer this question.
Other grant recipients
Kirk A. Harris (Ph.D. candidate, Department of Political Science) spent nine weeks in Kenya conducting opinion surveys and interviews for his dissertation. Kirk’s research focuses on how ethnicity shapes local patterns of resource allocation. The “rich array of both qualitative and quantitative data” collected over the summer will allow Kirk not only to successfully complete his dissertation, but also to begin work on a number of new projects. Kirk said the research conducted with funding from the Ostrom Workshop has made him “a more competitive candidate for any external research support that I will pursue in order to advance this research agenda.”
Emma McDonnell (Ph.D. candidate, Department of Anthropology) received funding for a five-week feasibility study for her dissertation research in the Peruvian highlands. Emma’s research focuses on the ways that quinoa producers and buyers negotiate changing production practices in the context of market logic and commodification. While in Peru, Emma found that quinoa prices “were half what they were during the 2014 harvest.” This discovery “pushed me to rethink the framing of my project, which, prior to the trip focused on the quinoa boom.” Funding from the Ostrom Workshop, Emma writes, “has allowed me to hone research questions, test methods, and develop a web of research contact, and has thereby prepared me to apply for major dissertation fieldwork grants this academic year.”
Cathryn Johnson (Ph.D. candidate, Department of Political Science) traveled to Burkina Faso to study women’s contributions to political life in Mali and Burkina Faso. Thanks to the grant, Cathryn was able to forge connections with colleagues at the National Democratic Institute. “Working from the NDI office provided opportunities for useful conversations about my project, including discussions about case selection and the history of decentralization in Burkina Faso.” The information collected through these conversations took Cathryn to Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso’s second largest city, where she conducted interviews with local women. Cathryn learned that “much of women’s participation in local politics and community life occurs through associations.” The study of women associations, and the social determinants of women’s participation in politics, has therefore become a central topic of her dissertation research.
Michelle L. Lute (Ph.D. recipient, School of Public & Environmental Affairs) used the funding from the Ostrom Workshop to complete a new research project that explores the ethical and social determinants of support for contentious wildlife conservation projects. Her findings contribute to the Ostrom Workshop’s research interests in governance and democracy in diverse socio-ecological systems. “This project significantly helped my research from a broader career perspective, by allowing me to bolster my publication record, research experience, and expertise in quantitative social science methodology,” Michelle said. Michelle is now a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Paul McCord (Ph.D. candidate, Department of Geography) used his grant to explore a new methodology to analyze data, in collaboration with the Indiana Statistical Consulting Center. He applied the new methods to the data he collected in 2013 on community and household level drivers of water delivery in the Mount Kenya region. “The analysis has revealed several insights not often explored within the governance literature,” he wrote. “Much of the previous work looking at the performance of irrigation systems has inspected outcomes at the community level. The data in my analysis, however, allowed for an assessment of household level outcomes.” After submitting the piece he wrote in the summer to the journal “World Development,” Paul is now working on a related manuscript that examines the intended and unintended household level outcomes of Kenya’s transition from monocentric to polycentric governance in 2012.
Luke M. Shimek (Ph.D. candidate, Joint Public Policy Program at the School of Public & Environmental Affairs and Department of Political Science) spent the summer in Washington, D.C., to conduct in-person interviews and gain access to libraries and archives at the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and Inter-American development Bank. Luke’s research focuses on the role of bureaucratic autonomy in strengthening democratic institutions in Latin America. Thanks to the funding, Luke was able to analyze the administration of the IMF, as well as the quality of advice given to Uruguay and Argentina during one of three crisis periods – the return to democracy (1982-1984), the failure of heterodox policies and hyperinflation (1989-1991) and the Argentine recession and debt default (200-2003). “This summer’s research was extremely helpful in determining the future direction of my dissertation research,” he wrote. In November, Luke successfully defended his dissertation proposal.
Shannon Lea Watkins (Ph.D. recipient, School of Public & Environmental Affairs) researches the relationship between the socio-demographic characteristics of residents in urban areas and urban trees to analyze environmental inequality in access to green spaces. Funding from the Ostrom Workshop allowed her to complete a comprehensive search of studies on environmental inequality. Shannon is now a postdoctoral fellow at San Francisco State University which has a strong focus on environmental justice.