Announcing Sustainability and Social Science Seed Grants Program Awards

ISSR is pleased to announce three research grant awards totaling $25,000 in its inaugural round of funding through the Sustainability and Social Science Seed Grant Program. 

Co-funded by ISSR and the School of Earth and Sustainability, the winning research teams leverage a broad range of disciplinary perspectives and expertise at UMass and beyond, including the Departments of Anthropology, Environmental Conservation, Geosciences, Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, Legal Studies and Political Science, Resource Economics, Sociology, and the School of Public Policy, as well as a host of governmental, nongovernmental and community organizations working at the human-environment interface. This degree of inter-disciplinary collaboration exemplifies ISSR's commitment to spanning disciplinary boundaries to open new ways of conceptualizing and studying the defining issues of our times. 

ISSR's Seed Grant Program on Sustainability and Social Science is an annual competition designed to stimulate new scholarly collaborations for innovative research centered on sustainability themes in the social sciences. These seed grants are intended to support proposals that are not likely to be funded by traditional granting organizations because they are early in development and interdisciplinary in nature. Each of the winning proposals defines a clear pathway to future research, scholarly, or creative and artistic growth of the Institute for Social Science Research. The seed grants require that the PIs lead teams of faculty who span colleges at UMass, reflecting the wide expertise in this area of research across the entire UMass campus.The Seed Grant program is a strategic outgrowth of the Sustainability and Social Science Working Group, which ISSR has facilitated since 2015 to connect and promote the work of social scientists working on these issues across the University and Five College campuses. Grantees will present the results of their research at a special event in the Spring of 2018.

Please join us in congratulating the recipients of ISSR's 2017-18 Sustainability and Social Sciences Seed Grants:

TITLE: Electricity, flexibility and sustainability: Place-based environmental and sociopolitical impacts of our coming electrical system as seen through hydropower and rivers 
AWARD: $10,000
ABSTRACT: This seed grant is the starting point of a larger 5-10-year project that will investigate how electric power sector changes in New England are likely to affect sociopolitical, economic, and ecological sustainability via their impact on hydropower, and thereby on specific places, communities and ecosystems. The sustainability seed grant will fund several initial pieces of this research: preliminary data and syntheses, preparation of two NSF grants, development of a model for predicting the effect of market prices on hydropower operations and revenues, and networking and planning with new collaborators. This research is poised to make two major contributions. First, it takes abstract goals like carbon reduction, market response, and flexibility and traces their implementation and effects on tangible places and people, enabling a far more robust and nuanced assessment of their impacts on sustainability. Second, the project brings hydropower, rivers, and riverside communities into view as particular ecosystems and places that stand to be affected by electric power sector change. These findings will better inform analysis, advocacy and policymaking related to electric power sector change, thereby facilitating a more well-rounded and sustainable energy transition for human and non-human lives.
""PI: Eve Vogel, Associate Professor, Political and Environmental Geography, Geosciences
Primary Collaborators (social science):
Bernie Morzuch, Professor, Resource Economics
Regine Spector, Assistant Professor, Political Science
Secondary Collaborators, Undergraduate Assistant Advisors (biophysical science):
Erin Baker, Professor, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering
Matthew Lackner, Associate Professor, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering
Adrian Jordan, Assistant Professor, Fish Ecology, Environmental Conservation
Project Advisors:
Mike Jacobs, Senior Energy Analyst, Union of Concerned Scientists
Dwayne Breger, Extension Professor, Environmental Conservation, and Director of UMass Clean Energy Extension
Andy Fisk, Director, Connecticut River Watershed Council
Rick Palmer, Department Head and Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
John Gartner, PostDoc, Fluvial Geomorphology, Geosciences
Jon Woodruff, Associate Professor, Sedimentology, Geosciences
Christine Hatch, Assistant Extension Professor, Hydrogeology, Geosciences
Brian Yellen, PostDoc, Hydrogeology and Sedimentology, Geosciences
Paul Barten, Professor, Environmental Conservation
Graduate student staff:
Bob Darrow, PhD candidate, Political Science

TITLE: Initiating a Computational Social Science effort to Support the Analysis of Sustainability-Relevant Institutions
AWARD: $10,000
ABSTRACT: A major challenge in the area of sustainability and policy studies is that we lack methods to systematically analyze institutional configurations – e.g., rules specified in regulations – comparatively or longitudinally because they are embedded in rich text-­‐based documents. In this project, we propose to develop a more automated process, using scripts and text analysis software, to automatically extract out classes of rules from a set of regulations related to fisheries management.  The tool we propose builds on an “institutional grammar tool” (IGT) or syntax initially developed by Crawford and Ostrom in 1995, and more recently applied to the study of regulations by colleagues in other institutions who I have contact with (Xavier Basurto, Duke University, Saba Siddiki, Indiana University-­‐Purdue, and others). The objective is to develop an analytical software tool that will, at least partially, extract Ostrom’s (2005) seven rule type classes. We will test this tool through comparing output to manual interpretation and coding of these same regulations. To date, no one has capitalized on the IGT in an effort to automate extraction of institutions. If this project succeeds, it will signal a major new computational initiative in the context of comparative and longitudinal study of institutions governing natural resources.  
""PI: Professor Charlie Schweik, Environmental Conservation and the School of Public Policy
Doug Rice, Assistant Professor, Legal Studies and Political Science
Adrian Jordaan, Assistant Professor, Environmental Conservation, and Director of the UMass Gloucester Marine Laboratory
Other project partners:
Brenda Bushouse, Political Science
James Kitts, Sociology and the Computational Social Science Institute
Justin Gross, Political Science and the Computational Social Science Institute

TITLE: Coupling Natural and Human Systems: Norms Governing Engagement
AWARD: $5,000
ABSTRACT: We seek funding to support collection of pilot data for a resubmission of a National Science Foundation grant to the Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) program. The data will inform a missing link in the feedback loops between human interactions with nature in urban parks and forests. We posit that (a) there is the potential for either positive or negative feedbacks from the rules and norms governing urban green spaces and people’s attachment to them, which translates to (b) changes in stewardship, which affects the ecosystem sustainability, and ultimately creates (c) feedbacks into governance systems and place attachment. In 2016 interview data, we found evidence in Springfield, MA parks for parts b and c of this feedback loop. In order to complete the circuit and document the coupled nature of this urban green space system, we need to better understand the norms that govern human interaction with nature. This seed grant will allow us to collect interview data that will inform our understanding of the rules and norms that govern urban parks users. Our research is an important contribution because even basic information from the natural sciences and social sciences in an urban context remain virtually unexplored. Our research will contribute to understanding the human role in sustainability of urban ecological systems.
""Co-Principal Investigators:
Brenda K. Bushouse, Political Science and School of Public Policy
Krista Harper, Anthropology and School of Public Policy
Robert Ryan, Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning
Paige Warren, Environmental Conservation, CNS