(Community training center near Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Alisa Zomer)

We are excited to offer a fourth year of the MIT GOV/LAB Seed Fund to support MIT Political Science graduate students conducting field research and data collection on GOV/LAB topics and themes of interest. Strong preference is given to applications that propose exploring collaborative research with practitioner partners.

This summer, we are providing nearly $20,000 to support five students conducting original research in diverse settings. Their research questions cover a range of governance topics including urban informality, accountability within government, and ethnic violence. Below is a brief overview of the research projects.

(Left to right: Stuart Russell, Matias Giannoni, Ying Gao, Jasmine English, and Minh Trinh. MIT Political Science.)

  • Within government accountability in Senegal. Stuart Russell is exploring how public sector unions complicate accountability relationships in the education sector in Senegal. Specifically, he is interested in understanding whether the partisan affiliation and strength of unions influence how elected and unelected officials oversee teachers. His research seeks to unpack within-government accountability relationships and highlight how public sector unions ultimately influence the quality of education. Stuart’s fieldwork will bring new data and fresh perspectives to a topic that is understudied in developing country contexts like Senegal. 
  • Who benefits when government decides not to act. Matias Giannoni is researching the incentives behind forbearance, or why government chooses not to enforce the law. To do so he is focusing on the case of informal settlements in Argentina, which often lack essential public utilities like water, energy, and waste removal. Though some literature seeks to answer this question from the perspective of the electoral returns that politicians obtain from low-income communities that often inhabit informal settlements, Matias is exploring government incentives from the perspective of middle class and elite Argentinians as well as the direct and indirect benefits they might obtain from non-enforcement. 
  • Measuring Geography-based Collective Action in Urban Informal Sectors in Indonesia. Ying Gao is investigating whether citizen participation in informal sectors increases informal collective action, but reduces demand for essential public services in cities. Because fine-grained data on the informal economy is not readily available, Ying will be working to connect, assemble, and analyze data to inform her research question. In rapidly urbanizing contexts, like Indonesia, better understanding how citizens in informal sectors differently participate, and how the government responds (or does not respond) to their collective action, is critical to informing urban service provision. 
  • Patterns of violence in ethnic conflict. Jasmine English is conducting research to examine variation in the content and intensity of violence across communal conflicts, drawing from the cases of Northern Ireland and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her research asks, why is extreme violence the outcome in some communal conflicts, but not in others? What factors explain variation in the quality of communal violence? This seed funding will support Jasmine to collect archival and interview data in Northern Ireland. 
  • Accountability through national statistics in Vietnam. Minh Trinh is studying the production of internal government statistics in Vietnam, to better understand the extent, causes, and effects of misreporting by government agencies in single-party systems. To do so, he is collecting and digitizing a large administrative dataset to begin unpacking the relationship between top-down and bottom-up accountability mechanisms as reflected by government statistics. 

The MIT GOV/LAB Seed Fund is open to MIT Political Science doctoral students. The Seed Fund is typically launched early in the spring term. Questions? mitgovlab@mit.edu