Four research projects ranging from pension financing in Latin America to women's participation in conflict resolution; gas reduction policies; and how common language can benefit community resilience and disaster recovery have been chosen to receive funding from the Institute for Society, Culture and Environment Global Issues Initiative 2013-14 Research Support Program.

In fall 2013, the Global Issues Initiative extended a broad-based call to all departments, centers, and programs at Virginia Tech for innovative research projects within its scope. As part of the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment, the Global Issues Initiative, located in the National Capital Region, addresses international policy questions facing the United States at the bilateral, regional, and multilateral levels in such areas as trade and economic integration, global security, public policy, counter terrorism, and public health and science policy.

The four projects chosen for funding were recently announced by David Orden, director of the Global Issues Initiative.

“The Political Economy of Pension Finance in Latin America”

Giselle Datz, associate professor, School of Public and International Affairs, National Capital Region, will study “The Political Economy of Pension Finance in Latin America.” Her project is aimed at explaining new developments in pension finance in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico from the early 1990s to present. 

Datz will develop a qualitative comparative analysis of these four case studies focused on micro-institutional dynamics; identify the roles being played by pension savings; and examine how they are increasingly functioning as economic policy tools to achieve different objectives, from domestic investment financing and deficit reduction to deepening financialization. 

Developing an understanding of pensions as financial arrangements will provide a window into the diverse evolving modes of interactions between states and markets in Latin America. Datz will also explore the concepts of pension fund developmentalism (where the public sector has influence over pension funds’ investment strategies and private-public institutional arrangements are blurred) and statism (where the state regains control over previously privatized mandatory pension savings).

“Security, Inequality, and Gender in El Salvador, Guatemala and Peru”

Ilja Luciak, professor of political science, will team with Nick Copeland, assistant professor of sociology; and Zac Zimmer, assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures, to research “Security, Inequality, and Gender in El Salvador, Guatemala and Peru” to better understand the contributions that have resulted from women’s participation in conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and post-conflict reconstruction. 

They will conduct field research during the Salvadoran presidential election process in February and March 2014. This study is part of a wider project involving three case studies.

“Multilateral Greenhouse Gas Reduction Policies Based on Shared Successes: Adoption of Residential Energy Efficient Technologies in the United States and the European Union"

Bradford Mills, professor of agricultural and applied economics, will collaborate with Joachim Schleich, professor, Grenoble Ecole de Management, France; and Anthony Murray, economist, Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, to study “Multilateral Greenhouse Gas Reduction Policies Based on Shared Successes: Adoption of Residential Energy Efficient Technologies in the United States and the European Union." 

This research will use household datasets from both regions to provide a comparative empirical analysis of residential energy use policies for home lighting and major appliances widely considered to be effective in reducing household energy use. 

Particular emphasis will be placed on understanding the roles that informative policies, focused on providing consumers with information on energy savings, and regulatory policies have played in energy efficient residential lighting and major appliance diffusion. The results of this study will inform the design of multilateral agreements that balance country-specific preferences and conditions with the need for common greenhouse gas reduction targets.

“Building a Common Language Around the Dynamic Resilience of Coastal Communities”

Christopher Zobel, professor of business information technology, will join with Yang Zhang, assistant professor, and Margaret Cowell (also located in the National Capital Region), assistant professor, Department of Urban Affairs and Planning; C. Guney Olgun, research assistant professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Robert Weiss, assistant professor, Department of Geosciences; and Mohsen Ghafory-Ashtiany, professor, International Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Seismology, to research “Building a Common Language Around the Dynamic Resilience of Coastal Communities.” 

This project proposes to establish a holistic and integrated characterization of disaster resilience aimed at closing the gaps between many different disciplines actively working to reduce disaster impacts and improve the effectiveness of disaster recovery. The team will leverage the discipline-specific expertise of each member to explore the contrasts between the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and Super Storm Sandy in 2012.

“These diverse and innovative studies more than meet our specific criteria,” Orden said. “They align with the applicant’s existing area of research or will help develop new expertise in a research area, have a strong past or potential for significant future support from government agencies, corporations, industrial consortia, or foundations, and are expected to result in at least one publication, such as a journal article or book chapter.”

“We were very pleased with the number of outstanding proposals we received for consideration, a testimonial to Virginia Tech faculty scholarship in the social sciences and humanities,” said Karen Roberto, director of the Institute for Society, Culture and Environment.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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