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Global Underdevelopment Action Fund awards six grants to projects addressing global underdevelopment

The Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) at Stanford University has awarded six seed grants in the first round of funding from the Global Underdevelopment Action Fund. The grants are intended to jumpstart early-stage multidisciplinary research projects that tackle persistent problems of global underdevelopment. The Action Fund, which is supported by expendable gifts from FSI donors, matching funds from the Office of the President, and FSI, grew out of the Institute's spring 2010 conference on Technology, Governance, and Global Development, which featured keynote speaker Bill Gates, together with leaders from business, government, and nonprofit organizations, the media, and the academic community, to examine novel integrative approaches to poverty alleviation and human development around the world. The Action Fund projects range across disciplines, focusing primarily on problems in developing and transitioning societies. The majority of the projects have a health dimension, reflecting the degree to which poor health outcomes mirror a country's development status.

"Stanford is uniquely placed among American universities to bring cutting edge research to bear on practical problems of development.  No other institution has lower barriers to multidisciplinary work.  The Action Fund award recipients are drawn from many different parts of the university but united in their concern for promoting development," said Stephen D. Krasner,  the Graham H. Stuart Professor of International Relations, Senior Associate Dean of the Social Sciences at H&S, and deputy director of FSI.

Six multidisciplinary research teams led by Stanford faculty from across the university will receive a total of $236,000 in seed grants. The projects were selected by a faculty committee chaired by Stephen Krasner, with a focus on early-stage, multidisciplinary, policy-relevant research. All, projects are required to have a training component for Stanford undergraduate or graduate students.

The award-winning projects and their principal investigators are:

  • Explaining and Improving U.S. Global Health Financing
    Eran Bendavid, assistant professor of medicine and affiliate in FSI’s Center for Health Policy. Co-investigator: Rajaie Batniji, postdoctoral fellow, Department of Medicine. With a sharp divergence between justifications for global health funding and the countries and diseases to which funding is disbursed, this study will conduct a quantitative analysis of the determinants of U.S. financing for the 171 countries receiving development assistance for health in 2009. The project seeks to identify the key drivers for U.S. global health financing by country and facilitate research on how to make global health financing work better. 
  • Peasants into Democrats: Evaluating the Impact of Information on Local Governance in Mali
    James D. Fearon, professor of political science. Co-investigator and trainee: Jessica Gottlieb, PhD student in political science. Recent research suggests that enhancing voter information holds promise for increasing government accountability in new democracies. This project will undertake a field experiment in Mali, a model of an underperforming new democracy, to test the theory that information that sufficiently raises citizen voter expectations of government performance can have an important effect on governance. It will examine the impact of an intervention that provides citizens with a civics course on voter and government behavior.
  • Effects of “Best Buy Health and Nutrition Toolkit” for Improving Educational Outcomes in Rural China
    Scott Rozelle, FSI Senior Fellow. Co-investigator and trainee: Paul H. Wise, professor of pediatrics, FSI senior fellow, and Patricia Foo, MD/PhD student, economics. Studies show high levels of anemia, nearsightedness, intestinal worms, and poor health and sanitation among children in China’s rural boarding schools. This project will measure initial health and nutrition levels of students in a randomized control setting, and deploy a set of affordable and sustainable interventions in treatment schools that includes multivitamins, eyeglasses, deworming medication, and nutrition and sanitation training. The project will then assess what works and what does not by comparing improvements in academic performance in treatment and control groups. The results of this experiment are intended to inform education and nutrition policy in China at the central and provincial levels.
  • Controlling Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis: A Cooperative Agenda for China and North Korea
    Gary K. Schoolnik, professor of medicine and microbiology and immunology, and FSI senior fellow. Co-investigator: Sharon Perry, senior research scientist, Department of Medicine and FSI/CISAC. Rates of tuberculosis, a disease that thrives on poverty, malnutrition, and interrupted medical care, are now among the highest in the world in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea), elevating the risk of an epidemic of drug-resistant strains and a spread into China. This project represents a unique historical opportunity to examine the relationship between food security, malnutrition, and the epidemiology of tuberculosis in a present-day famine.

  • Political Causes of Russia’s Public Health Crisis
    Kathryn Stoner, FSI senior fellow. Co-investigator: Rajaie Batniji, postdoctoral fellow, Department of Medicine. In spite of the economic advances and increases in GDP since the collapse of communism, Russia suffers from a range of dismal public health outcomes reminiscent of a much poorer country. This study seeks to understand what role political factors play in the country’s high adult mortality rate and declining life expectancy by mining World Bank and World Health Organization data and examining how Russians access healthcare services and information

  • Factors Affecting Adoption and Ongoing Use of Improved Biomass Stoves in Karnataka and Maharashtra, India
    Frank Wolak, professor of economics and FSI senior fellow. Co-investigator: Mark C. Thurber, research scholar, FSI/Program on Energy and Sustainable Development. Burning of biomass in traditional stoves is associated with a host of ills among an estimated 2.5 billion people around the world, even though cleaner and more efficient technologies exist that could mitigate the problems. This study will examine what factors affect cooking mode choice and utilization, with the objective of developing an econometric model that is useful for efforts that encourage the adoption of improved biomass stoves. The project also seeks to offer insights on poorly understood processes of technology adoption among poor populations and to understand the magnitude of health, development, and environmental benefits that might be achievable.