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ISCE-GII Research Support

The Global Issues Initiative Research Support Program (RSP) was designed to enhance faculty scholarship in the social sciences directed toward global issues with significant implications for the United States. Specifically, GII addressed 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.

This  program is no longer active. See below for past funded projects.


Past GII-RSP Recipients

The Design and Implementation of Trade Secret Protection in Transparency-based Environmental Regulation 

Brian J. Cook, Professor, Center for Public Administration and Policy 

Dawn Stoneking and L. Maria Ingram, Doctoral Students, Center for Public Administration and Policy, 

Robert Shaffer, Doctoral Student, Department of Political Science, University of Texas, Austin

The recent surge in the use of hydraulic fracturing to access major shale gas deposits in North and South America, Africa, central Europe, China, and Australia has sparked growing concerns about inadequate transparency in environmental regulation because drilling firms have made broad claims for protecting materials and processes as trade secrets. Governmental responses have varied considerably, raising questions about how to balance transparency and secrecy in public health and environmental policy. Through a comparative analysis of six cases, this project will investigate how regulatory bodies in national and subnational governments are implementing provisions protecting trade secrets in major environmental laws and regulations designed with rigorous requirements for transparency and information disclosure. The six-case analysis will allow the researchers to test and refine new theory and analytical methods regarding policy design and implementation. The ultimate aim is to build a global database, expanding the comparative analysis to many more cases where demands for transparency and secrecy clash in the environmental protection realm.


Rural-to-Urban Migration and Urbanization in China

Suqin Ge, Associate Professor, Department of Economics

China’s spectacular economic growth over the past three decades has been associated with equally remarkable large rural-to-urban migration. While labor mobility was restricted by the household registration (Hukou) system and a food rationing system during the centrally planned regime, regulations governing internal migration were gradually relaxed with the progression of reform. In 2012, the total number of rural-to-urban migrant workers was estimated to be more than 230 million. This massive rural-to-urban migration is the world’s largest human migration and is one defining feature of China’s labor market. This project aims to assess how much the Hukou system of population registration and control affects the cost of migration in China and how much the rural-to-urban migration has affected China’s urban employment and wage structures. A two-sector labor market equilibrium model will be used to study the relative importance of labor supply and demand factors and institutional reforms in the growth of the rural-to-urban migration in China.

Reaching Low Income Malaysians with Community-based Type 2 Diabetes Education

Kathy Hosig, Associate Professor and Director, Center for Public Health Practice and Research, Department of Population Health Sciences

Dr. Tin Tin Su, Associate Professor and Head, Centre for Population Health and Dr. Hazreen Bin Abdul Majid, Senior Lecturer (nutrition), Department of Social and Preventive Health, University of Malaya

Prevalence of type 2 diabetes in 2010 was 10.3% in the United States and 11.6% in Malaysia, among the highest in the world.  Poorly controlled diabetes is associated with complications affecting the nerves, heart, brain, eyes, and kidneys, resulting in increased medical expenses.  Lifestyle interventions to control type 2 diabetes through weight loss, improved diet and increased physical activity have been successful and cost-effective.  Balanced Living with Diabetes, an evidence-based, community-based lifestyle intervention for type 2 diabetes developed by Virginia Cooperative Extension and tailored for the Malaysian population, will be tested with one group of participants in a low income residential area of Malaysia and further adapted.  A follow up randomized control trial with four participant groups will provide preliminary data to plan a larger study.  Collaboration among U.S. and Malaysian researchers may identify universal characteristics of community-based diabetes self-management interventions that could have local, national and international significance.


Between Development and Globality: Cities as Growth Engines in India

Rohan Kalyan, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

India's turn to economic liberalization over the past two and a half decades has been accompanied by a corresponding urban turn, in which cities are increasingly seen as key drivers of economic growth. Yet Indian cities are marked by severe forms of inequality and uneven development, with vast sections of the urban populace living in precarious conditions. As cities globalize by attracting foreign investment and building modern infrastructures they also must contend with the material conditions of the urban poor that constitute the vast majority of the city. This project is a case-study of the capital city of New Delhi that shows the challenges of becoming a global city in the context of vast socio-economic inequality. It analyzes governmental and non-governmental strategies of shifting the image and identity of the city from developmental to global so as to better facilitate India's larger integration in the world economy.


Radical Interventions of Learning in China for Shaping Education Policy and the Civic Society

Carol A. Mullen, Professor, School of Education

China’s educational approach has been characterized as formulaic rather than one that mindfully crafts the learning environment. Even so, some in the U.S. consider China to be a model of educational success based on the relatively higher performance of Chinese students on international test scores. Consequently, current shifts in U.S. education policy have exerted pressure on schools and states to standardize instruction that focuses on narrow measures of scholastic achievement. Meanwhile, China’s rigid education system has come under criticism in recent years, even by its leaders, as primarily a means for supplying labor markets at the expense of preparing people to solve complex, open-ended problems and of making other social gains. In this project, field research carried out from June˗July 2015 in universities in China will permit exploration of how leaders and educators in China are envisioning learning as a more creative, critical, and inclusive enterprise.


Security, Inequality and Gender in El Salvador, Guatemala and Peru 
Ilja A. Luciak, Professor, Department of Political Science

Nick Copeland, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology

Zac Zimmer, Assistant Professor, Foreign Languages and Literatures

Over the past decade, women’s participation in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction has received much-deserved attention. The introduction of a gender perspective at the international, regional and national level has led to a better understanding and appreciation of women’s participation in armed conflict and subsequent peace negotiations, as well as their central role in the reconstruction of post-conflict societies. Yet women’s experiences and agency are rarely considered in debates surrounding the problems of insecurity plaguing post-conflict democracies. This project will contribute to our understanding of the contributions women make in post-conflict environments. Field research during the Salvadoran presidential election process of February and March 2014 will permit the PI to explore the crucial intersections between security, inequality and gender by examining the electoral platforms and campaign discourses of the main political parties competing in the Salvadoran electoral process. This is part of a wider project involving three case studies.


Building a common language around the dynamic resilience of coastal communities

Christopher Zobel, Professor, Department of Business Information Technology

Yang Zhang, Assistant Professor, and Margaret Cowell, 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

Mohsen Ghafory-Ashtiany, Professor, International Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Seismology

Disasters are multi-dimensional, deeply interwoven events that cross geographic, political, social, and cultural boundaries to affect millions of people worldwide. Although researchers in many different disciplines are actively working on reducing disaster impacts and improving the effectiveness of disaster recovery, they tend to view disasters from their own specific disciplinary perspective. There is no common language, no common set of objectives, no common understanding, and no common vision for addressing disaster risk and achieving resilience. All of these are crucial, however, for developing a better transdisciplinary understanding of the full complexity of disaster resilience, especially the dynamic interplay between risk drivers, mitigation measures, and recovery policies. This project proposes to establish a holistic and integrated characterization of disaster resilience that aims at closing the gaps between disciplines, and therefore to provide a common language through which new and innovative perspectives develop to find solutions to the growing impacts of disaster events. The project team will leverage the discipline-specific expertise of each team member by exploring the contrasts between the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and will use this to support their development of a more transdisciplinary approach to characterizing coastal community resilience.


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, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics

Joachim Schleich, Professor, Grenoble Ecole de Management, France

Anthony Murray, Economist, Economic Research Service, USDA

In both the EU and the USA a number of encouraging efforts have been undertaken to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, however bilateral and multilateral agreements on GHG reductions have proved elusive.  This research will use household datasets from both regions to provide a comparative analysis of EU and USA residential energy use policies for home lighting and major appliances that are widely considered to have been 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 contributions of country differences in household characteristics and environmental preferences to observed differences in residential energy saving technology diffusion will also be identified in the empirical analysis.  Study results will then be distilled into an energy policy oriented article that can be used to inform the design of multilateral agreements that balance country-specific preferences and conditions with the need for common GHG reduction targets. 


The Political Economy of Pension Finance in Latin America

Giselle Datz, Associate Professor, School of Public and International Affairs, National Capital Region

Although Latin American pension funds have grown significantly as a result of pension reforms in the 1990s, they have received very limited attention as crucial players in domestic and international financial markets. This project aims to elucidate new developments in pension finance in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico from the early 1990s to present. The focus is on pension reform and regulations that shape the investment strategies of pension funds. In order to capture regional diversity, a new typology is suggested that departs from the oft-mentioned Anglo-American notion of “pension fund capitalism”. It further specifies pension finance as also revealing dynamics best described as pension fund developmentalism (where the public sector has influence over pension funds’ investment strategies, and private-public institutional arrangements are blurred despite some degree of economic liberalization) and statism (where the state regains control over mandatory pension savings, previously privatized). The typology is not only aimed at capturing more empirical nuance in the Latin American cases studies analyzed here, but it can also serve as reference for cross regional analyses of these often neglected actors, on whose financial performance lies the sustainability of both publicly and privately managed capitalization plans.


Plutonium production in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea before 2003 and antineutrino reactor safeguards

Patrick Huber, Associate Professor, Department of Physics

The first North Korean nuclear crisis had its origin in the question of how much plutonium North Korea had separated prior to 1992 and reached its climax in 1994. We investigate how a novel, emerging technology, so-called antineutrino reactor safeguards, might have been able to resolve this question early in the process. Nuclear reactors derive their energy from the fission of fissile isotopes of uranium and plutonium; the resulting fission fragments are highly radioactive and decay via the emission of antineutrinos.  The energy distribution of antineutrinos depends on the ratio of uranium to plutonium fissions and therefore, a precise measurement of this energy distribution allows determination of the total number of fissions as well as the amount of plutonium present in a reactor. Since antineutrinos are highly penetrating, this measurement can be performed without modifications to the reactor at a distance of several tens of meters. In a second part of this study we will assess the potential impact this improved estimate might have had on the course of the crisis. A key element will be interviews with some of the key actors on the side of the U.S. State Department and the IAEA.


Religion and Political Violence:  Twentieth Century Latin American and the Middle Eastern Discourses on Religious Justifications of Political Violence

Bettina Koch, Associate Professor, Political Science

The project builds on the empirical evidence that suggests a link between violence and religion. It analyzes hegemonic and anti-hegemonic discourses in which religion is used to justify political violence in twentieth century Latin America (Christianity) and the Middle East (Islam). By considering religion rather as a means to an end and not necessarily as the main cause of violent conflicts, its aim is to uncover the underlying socio-economic and political tensions to which violence seems to be at least one plausible response. The project’s goal is twofold: First, it intends to understand how these discourses work and under what circumstances religion is successfully applied to justify political violence. Second, it aims to identify whether similar patterns of justification can be located in both religious cultures. Understanding these discourses on violence and their underlying conflicts opens opportunities to interrupt these circles of violence and may provide insights for foreign policy strategies and, if necessary, international interventions that target the problem and not simply a conflict’s symptoms.


Security, Conflict, and Environmental Manipulation in the Middle East

Ariel Ahram, Assistant Professor, School of Public and International Affairs (National Capitol Region)

Middle Eastern states have long sought to manipulate elements of the natural world, such as a water and arable land, to render their populations more legible, productive, and-- most importantly-- governable.  Though altering the environment is aimed to suit the state, dams, irrigation canals, wetland reclamation, and other forms of environmental engineering can have untold consequences for society and even incite violent resistance by those adversely affected by government plans.  Examining cases in Egypt, Turkey, Israel, and Iraq, this project aims to elucidate the different ways democratic and autocratic regimes approach environmental manipulation, how they anticipate and deal with blowback, and whether such responses escalates to the point of armed conflict.


Global Age-Friendly Communities Initiative: Policy in Action for Active Aging

Eunju Hwang, Assistant Professor, and Julia Beamish, Professor, Department of Apparel, Housing and Resource Management, Virginia Tech, Andrew Sixsmith, Professor, Simon Fraser University, Ernest Chui, Associate Professor, University of Hong Kong, and Seong-hahn Koh, Senior Research Fellow, Jeju Development Institute, Korea

The number of seniors in the United States is expected to double within the next 20 years and the global population of adults over the age of 60 is also expected to double by 2050. The challenge of population aging requires innovative approaches to enable seniors to remain in their home as long as possible (aging-in-place). Nevertheless, the role of supportive environments on aging-in-place has only recently begun to be explored. Further examination is required into the connection between current housing and social policies and aging-in-place and healthy aging. This study examines the relationship between age-friendly environments and aging-in-place with the knowledge generated by analysis of an existing European ENABLE-AGE database. Our specific objectives are to conceptualize the interrelationships between environmental and individual factors and aging-in-place; examine the relationships between home adaptations, assistive devices and technical aids and aging-in-place; and investigate the relationship between provision of social services and aging-in-place. The research results will produce outcomes that will contribute to global health, housing, and aging issues.