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News Release

March 10, 2008


Judith Paulus, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies: (650) 723-8490,

Catharine Kristian, The Stanford International Initiative: (650) 721-4748,

International grants totaling $1 million awarded to interdisciplinary Stanford research teams

Projects to enhance health security and child survival in Africa with improvements in water and sanitation, examine why poor business-management practices persist in India, study the relationship of legal courts to politics and human rights, and understand why the Middle East has lagged in economic progress were recent recipients of grants totaling just under $1 million from Stanford's Presidential Fund for Innovation in International Studies.

"These projects have great potential to advance academic knowledge, social capital and human development around the world, and to create a healthier, more promising future for hundreds of millions of people," President John Hennessy said. "When we launched The Stanford Challenge, we committed to marshal university resources to address the great challenges of the 21st century in human health, the environment and international affairs, and it is gratifying to see the response from our remarkable faculty."

The 2008 projects and their principal investigators follow:

Enhancing Health Security Through Infrastructure and Behavioral Intervention: Water, Sanitation and Child Survival in Africa. Alexandria Boehm and Jenna Davis, Civil and Environmental Engineering; Abby King, Health Research and Policy and Medicine; Gary Schoolnik, Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology. The project seeks to improve the health and well-being of the 1.2 billion people in low-income countries who lack access to clean water and the 2.6 billion who lack access to sanitation services, with a focus on mortality reduction in children. It will be carried out in sub-Saharan Africa, where the toll of water- and sanitation-related illness on health is severe, and will investigate the extent to which information and education about water and sanitation at the household level motivates behavior changes that result in reduced morbidity. Results will inform international efforts to design and implement effective water supply and sanitation interventions for more than 400 million Africans currently lacking access.

Why Are Indian Firms Poorly Managed? A Survey and Randomized Field Intervention. Nicholas Bloom and Aprajit Mahajan, Economics; Thomas Heller and Erik Jensen, Law School; John Roberts, Graduate School of Business. The biggest single reduction in poverty in the history of mankind was achieved by the industrialization of China since 1978, which lifted almost 500 million people out of poverty. India has not experienced this level of poverty reduction because its manufacturing firms have not achieved the productivity gains seen in China. Recent evidence suggests one key factor is the poor management practices adopted by Indian firms. This project examines why poor management practices persist in India and are much more common there. It focuses in particular on evaluating the relative importance of informational, legal and development barriers. The project will undertake a field survey of Indian firms to evaluate their knowledge of modern management techniques and a field intervention aimed at upgrading management practices in a randomized sample of Indian firms, comparing their progress to a control group of untouched firms.

Courts, Politics and Human Rights. Joshua Cohen, Philosophy, Political Science and Law School; Terry Karl, Political Science; Jenny S. Martinez, Law School. This project examines the role of courts as the centerpiece of strategies for promoting human rights by asking if courts should be a preferred human rights venue or if there are other more accessible and effective ways to secure human rights. It addresses three broad themes: the interplay between national, regional and international courts in the protection of human rights; the role of governments and nongovernmental organizations in influencing legal proceedings; and how courts construct historical truth and shape public opinion, memory, attitudes and discourse about human-rights abuses. The multidisciplinary project will span countries, regions, issue areas and historical timeframes to ask what reasonably can be expected from international, regional and domestic courts in safeguarding human rights.

The Middle East and the World Economy. Matthew Harding, Economics; Lisa Blaydes, Political Science. This project examines why the Middle East has lagged in economic progress compared to much of the developing world and the implications of this underdevelopment for two overarching trends in Middle Eastern politics today: authoritarian government and Islamic fundamentalism. The researchers also will examine how political instability originating in the Middle East has affected world oil prices and world markets by constructing economic models of the world economy. The project seeks broadly to understand the macro- and microeconomic determinants of Islamic fundamentalism and authoritarian rule, and the extent to which these two outcomes have affected the stability and prosperity of the world economy. It measures global factors resulting from increased globalization and quantifies their impact on the development of economies in the Middle East.

The $3 million Presidential Fund for Innovation in International Studies was first established in 2005 by the Office of the President and the Stanford International Initiative to support new cross-campus, interdisciplinary research and teaching among Stanford's seven schools on three overarching global challenges: pursuing peace and security, reforming and improving governance at all levels of society, and advancing human well-being.

The first $1 million in interdisciplinary grants was awarded in February 2006; the second round of grants was awarded in February 2007.

"In all three rounds of funding, it has been heartening to see the imaginative and innovative ways that Stanford faculty are combining intellectual forces across disciplines to tackle some of the most pressing and persistent problems of our day," said Coit D. Blacker, chair of the International Initiative Executive Committee and director of Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. "It is especially gratifying to see the younger faculty competing for these grants, eager to generate new knowledge and new solutions and help train a new generation of leaders."

Priority in funding has been given to teams of faculty who do not typically work together, who represent multiple disciplines and who address issues falling broadly within the three central research areas of the Stanford International Initiative. Projects are to be based on collaborative research and teaching involving faculty from two or more disciplines and, where possible, from two or more of the university's seven schools.


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