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Research

The Political Science Department is home to several major funded research projects and professional activities, many of which integrate undergraduate and graduate students into the faculty-led research process. The links below connect to some of our major projects.

Current Research Projects

Big Data Social Science IGERT (bdss.psu.edu):  Directed by Dr. Burt Monroe, the Big Data Social Science IGERT program (BDSS IGERT) is a National Science Foundation funded Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship. This program draws together a diverse interdisciplinary team of researchers to create a new training program in Social Data Analytics, aimed at producing a new type of scientist capable of meeting emerging big data challenges. The program is intended to establish new models for graduate education and training in a fertile environment for collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries, and to engage students in understanding the processes by which research is translated to innovations for societal benefit. Graduate trainees from Political Science and numerous other disciplines are selected in Spring semester each year to participate in the program.

COW (http://correlatesofwar.org/ ):   The Correlates of War project oversees the collection, updating and distribution of many standard data sets widely used in empirical analyses of international relations. A major focus of the project is international conflict, with particular emphasis on conflicts involving the threat, use or display of force. Other data sets include national capability measures (military, population, and economic indicators), diplomatic relations, alliances, geographic proximity and intergovernmental organizations. The project features a strong commitment to standard scientific principles of replication, data reliability, peer review, and transparency of data collection procedures.

EUGene ( http://www.eugenesoftware.org):   The Expected Utility Generation and Data Management Program is a Windows-based data management tool developed at Penn State that facilitates the creation of data sets for use in the quantitative analysis of international relations by making a standard set of data management tasks less cumbersome. In particular, EUGene automates the process of managing and merging multiple input data sets on the way to generating new dyadic data sets. EUGene also generates data for variables used to test rational choice theories. While originally designed to make the testing of expected utility theories easier, the software and supporting databases are constantly being expanded and improved.

The Autocratic Regimes Dataset, created by Joe Wright, Barbara Geddes and Erica Frantz, compiles the universe of autocratic regimes from 1946-2010. The data set identifies the political events and dates that mark the beginning and end of every regime. It also includes variables measuring: how regimes end, the level of violence during the regime collapse event, and the type of political regime that follows regime collapse. The initial data collection is complete and publicly available at http://dictators.la.psu.edu/}.

The Leadership-Security Ties project is a multi-year original data collection effort led by Joe Wright which uses information from historical case studies, news reports, and primary sources into a comprehensive list of the operationally independent military and security organizations in all dictatorships in the world from 1990-2012. The data contain a list of the leaders of these organizations and codes whether these organization leaders have a personal family or politically-relevant ethnic connection to the regime leader.  The new data will be used to examine how leadership-security ties in dictatorships influence state-led violence during times of regime crisis.

Natural Resources and Armed Conflict Project. This project, undertaken by Jim Piazza and colleagues at UNC Charlotte (Jim Walsh – PI, Beth Whitaker and Justin Conrad), the University of Texas (Mike Findley) and SUNY Albany (Victor Asal) constructs and analyzes a unique geocoded database of insurgent and terrorist group control over and exploitation of natural resources such as diamonds, timber, oil and narcotics.  Armed with the new database, the researchers will be able to better investigate the role of “lootable” resources in affecting conflict and the types of political violence used by groups.  The database will include resources’ location, market value and if and precisely how rebel groups are exploiting them.  Some of the questions that that the project hopes to shed light on include:

  • How does access to natural resources influence the type of violence employed by non-government entities or people? Does that access lead them to scale up from terrorist to insurgent violence?
  • Do natural resources fuel third-party interventions into civil wars?
  • How do natural resources influence state failure and political violence?
  • How do the different ways that rebels can exploit resources influence their duration, use of violence and cohesion?

The project is funded through a Department of Defense Minerva Research Initiative grant for three years.  Once the database is finalized, it will be made public.

Affiliated Programs and Initiatives

The Center for American Political Responsiveness (http://capr.la.psu.edu/): The Center for American Political Responsiveness is an interdisciplinary academic center that investigates questions of democratic governance and public policy. It hosts regular brownbag talks as well as conferences on special topics.

QuaSSI (http://qssi.psu.edu/): The Quantitative Social Science Initiative is a consortium of scholars interested in statistical methods for research and teaching. The mission of the QuaSSI is to produce highly trained students in statistical methods and to create an intellectual community for students and faculty pursuing statistical methods for use in the analysis of social science research problems. Each year it hosts a variety of programs for both faculty and graduate students on a wide range of topics.

PiCP: The Program in Comparative Politics coordinates research activities and funding for comparative politics faculty and graduate students in the political science department. It sponsors the CP Workshop, provides training to help graduate students apply for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), and houses the team that currently edits APSA's Comparative Politics Newsletter. PiCP also administers research funds available to graduate students in comparative politics specifically for international conference travel and field research.

PEIR: The Program on Empirical International Relations consolidates the strengths of Penn State's faculty in studying international relations using rigorous empirical data. PEIR works to bring together students, faculty and guests focused on studying international relations using sophisticated quantitative methods, carefully developed theories and appropriate data. Students in the department benefit from regular speakers brought in from other institutions, reading groups, research with faculty and expanded training opportunities. PEIR also coordinates student and faculty involvement with the Peace Science Society, the Correlates of War Project, and EUGene.

PSS (http://pss.la.psu.edu):   Penn State is home to the Peace Science Society (International), an academic society focused on studying the causes of war and peace using rigorous, scientific methods. Since its founding in the early 1960s, the Society has been a major catalyst for peace and conflict research around the world through its national and international conferences and publication of two major journals, Conflict Management and Peace Science and the Journal of Conflict Resolution.

Social Thought Program (http://www.stp.psu.edu/): The Social Thought Program at Penn state is motivated by the assumption that narrow disciplinary training can be inadequate preparation for the multi-faceted and multi-lingual nature of intellectual and political life in the 21st century. The Program is intended as a conduit and point of contact for those members of the university community in various disciplines with shared interests in social values, historical understanding, and interdisciplinary approaches to learning. Organizers of this Program intend especially to share the benefits of this cross-disciplinary cooperation with the graduate student community in a wide array of research fields. To that end, the Program includes a PhD Minor in Social Thought and is engaged in coordingating public events, informal gatherings, reading groups, and other modes of connection for young scholars and their faculty colleagues.

Recent and Currently Funded Research Grants

All the faculty in the Department have active research projects; many have recently received external grants for their work and may be interested in hiring undergraduate and graduate students.

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