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ISS grants support research on health care, history

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Melissa Osgood

Miguel Gómez, associate professor in the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, fondly remembers childhood summers spent sleeping on hammocks hanging over dirt floors at his grandfather’s teak farm in Colombia.

With no running water, the family used jugs to water the teak. Someday they would be rich, they thought.

When the teak was harvested it was too hard to cut and too heavy to get to the market. His family’s dreams vanished, all because they had no marketing plan. But Gómez learned important lessons largely responsible for his research today on the social and environmental implications of food systems.

Gómez is one of 15 Cornell faculty members to receive a small grant award from the Institute for the Social Sciences this fall. He is assessing the welfare, socioeconomic and environmental impacts of Colombian coffee growers participating in specialty markets in Antioquia and Cauca.

Like wine, specialty coffee prices are based in part on terroir (taste of place), along with origin and perceived benefits to smallholder growers. Little is known about how coffee growers participating in specialty markets are doing, but Gómez and his team plan to find out.

“Twice yearly, the Institute for the Social Sciences gives small grants to tenure-line faculty in the social sciences for research and conferences. This round, we awarded grants to Cornell social science faculty in four colleges, along with Johnson and the Law School,” said Daniel T. Lichter, the Robert S. Harrison Director.

Rebecca Seguin, in nutritional sciences, and Don Kenkel, in policy analysis and management, are determining the cost-effectiveness of the Double Up Food Bucks Program that aims to improve fruit and vegetable consumption by participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.

Tatiana Homonoff, policy analysis and management, is researching the effect that staggering the days when food stamp benefits are issued has on food purchasing patterns and food prices.

Working with colleagues from Weill Cornell Medicine and from the ILR School’s Scheinman Institute, Adam Seth Litwin, labor relations, law and history, is assessing the role that frontline worker, often facilitated by unionization, play in reducing the incidence of hospital-acquired, healthcare-associated infections.

“We’re testing our theory that perceived status differences, for example, between nurses and physicians in a hospital promote the spread of infections. We also suspect that unionization among RNs could itself be an effective deterrent to the spread of hospital infections,” said Litwin.

Nicolas Ziebarth, policy analysis and management, plans to compare sick pay requirements in Germany with those in the United States. He will model the economic impacts of various sick pay regimes and contrast how contagious diseases spread under different sick pay models.

Durba Ghosh, history, is looking at how the history of Bengal’s revolutionary terrorist movement was produced by revolutionaries and radicals after 1947 when India became independent from the British. She is analyzing how public commemorations were a central part of forming new civic communities in the postcolonial state.

“My project builds on an ISS project that I was involved in over a decade ago on contentious knowledges and social movements,” she said.

Do we recognize the awkward position we put people in when we ask them to do something unethical? This is one of several questions Vanessa Bohns, organizational behavior, is answering in her study, Understanding Our Influence Over Others’ Moral Decisions.

Four conferences to be held at Cornell next year also are receiving support from the ISS’ small grant program. Jed Stiglitz, law, is organizing the ninth annual Political Economy and Public Law Conference next spring. Louis Hyman, labor relations, law and history, is hosting the third History of Capitalism Summer Camp for historians.

Cornell’s Department of Linguistics will host the 15th international Laboratory Phonology Conference, July 13-16, 2016, focused on speech dynamics and phonological representation, and bringing together linguists, psychologists, computer scientists, cognitive scientists and neuroscientists from around the world to share advances in understanding of the nature of human speech. Abby Cohn and Sam Tilsen, both in linguistics, are co-organizers.

Next fall, Jessica Weiss and Valerie Bunce, both in government, are planning a workshop with specialists on contemporary Russia and China to compare relations between citizens and the state in these two authoritarian regimes.

Other recipients of fall 2015 small grants are So-Yeon Yoon, design and environmental analysis; Khena Swallow, psychology; Eve DeRosa, human development; and Matthew Baron, Samuel Curtis Johnson School of Graduate Management.

The deadline for the spring 2016 small grants competition is Feb. 2, 2016.  Applications are now being accepted.

Lori Sonken is the staff writer for the Institute for the Social Sciences.

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