URI Social Science Institute awards summer research grants

Posted on

KINGSTON, R.I. – August 8, 2017 — The University of Rhode Island’s Social Science Institute for Research, Education and Policy (SSIREP) recently awarded its first grants for ten promising summer faculty research projects. Ranging from $1,500-$3,000, these grants were awarded to encourage and promote collaborative and interdisciplinary research in the social sciences.

Established last year to foster collaborative research among URI social scientists, more than 60 researchers have joined the program. The funded projects encourage and promote collaborative and interdisciplinary research in the social sciences.

“This group is vital to bringing together several strong departments on campus to jointly work on interdisciplinary programs and initiatives,” said retired Political Science Professor Emeritus Lawrence Rothstein, who has helped shape the SSIREP. “We received initial funding for the group to generate social science research and build new partnerships and are working to build up those resources.”

In the meantime, the first grants were funded to faculty whose research addresses issues around the state and the world:

Applied Policy and Action Institute: Sociology & Anthropology Professor Helen Mederer of West Kingston, Assistant Professor Research Barbara Silver of Stonington, Conn., and Political Science Associate Professor Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz of Providence, received a $3,000 grant for their Applied Policy and Action Institute. Their proposal combines policy research using undergraduate students and training for students to be effective in influencing and promoting legislation.

“We’re an interdisciplinary team of three–political scientist, social psychologist, and sociologist who share an interest in using social science research to inform policy,” said Mederer. “We all have experience in policy research and would like to help our students acquire these experiences and skills. These skills can lead to rewarding careers and offer Rhode Island skilled workers who are prepared to fill leadership positions in government and nonprofit organizations. Thanks to this funding, we began work this summer on creating an undergraduate policy certificate program we’re calling Policy Research Engagement Program (PREP).

Seaport Vulnerability: Assistant Professor of Marine Affairs Austin Becker of Providence, and Marine Affairs Research Associate Elizabeth Mclean of Jamestown, received a $1,500 grant for their project, Stakeholders Perceptions of “Seaport Vulnerability” to Extreme Weather Event Impacts: A Cultural Consensus Model. This research will incorporate stakeholders and researchers in strengthening the resilience of coastal communities and reducing the impact of climate change to North Atlantic ports.

Widening Circles of Care: Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Affairs Asha Spivak of Cranston, and School of Education Assistant Professor Kayon Murray-Johnson of North Kingstown, received a $1,500 award for their project. Called “Widening Circles of Care: Jumpstarting Ethnic and Racial Inclusion in Elementary School Children,” their research seeks to shed light on how educators can stimulate positive intergroup relations in schools. Encouraging inclusive and caring behaviors in young students is a key step towards establishing meaningful social diversity.

Coal-Fired Conflict: Assistant Professor of Political Science Aaron Ley of Bristol, received a $1,500 grant to work on “Rhode Island’s Coal-Fired Conflict: How Closed-Cycle Cooling Towers Altered the Views of Mount Hope Bay Residents.” The project demonstrates collaboration between environmental psychologists from Providence College and Rhode Island College to conduct stakeholder interviews regarding the Brayton plant controversy. In the end, this study will determine why these stakeholders chose certain venues for action.

Small Island Tourism Development: Marine Affairs Professor Robert Thompson of Wakefield, and Assistant Professor Amelia Moore of Providence, received a $1,500 grant for their project, “Understanding the Stages of Small Island Tourism Development to Improve the Health of Fishing Communities and Coral Reefs.” This research project asks: How can regional policy makers in Indonesia integrate tourism within existing and future fisheries and coral reef management decisions and create mechanisms to ensure local residents have equitable access to open-access or common property coastal resources as well as to new revenues from tourism.

Learn more about SSIREP.