Green product innovation in industrial networks. with Eugenie Dugoua. In review
Previous studies have typically modeled green technological change as innovations in the process through which goods are produced (e.g., abatement technologies or energy sources). But greening the economy also requires changing the products that we use. The automotive industry, for example, needs to deploy large fleets of electric or hydrogen-based vehicles. Product manufacturing nowadays occurs within supply-chain networks, and developing new products typically requires complementary investments by suppliers. In this paper, we study the incentives for green product innovation in industrial networks and how policies can affect them. We follow the industrial organization theory of product differentiation, and model green product innovations as upgrades in product quality where inputs from suppliers are essential for upgrading quality. We show that suppliers can be innovation bottlenecks and render policy instruments less effective. An extension of the model introduces uncertainty in the direction of technological change. Here, we provide an explicit mechanism for the role of institutions that can help actors coordinate on a long-term direction of innovation. Finally, we discuss how our results help organize several findings from case studies in the automotive industry.
The Scalability, efficiency and complexity of universities and colleges: A new lens for assessing the higher educational system. with Chris Kempes, Ryan Taylor, Xiaofan Liang, Geoffrey West and Manfred Laubichler. In review
The growing need for affordable and accessible higher education is a major global challenge for the 21st century. Consequently, there is a need to develop a deeper understanding of the functionality and taxonomy of universities and colleges and, in particular, how their various characteristics change with size. Scaling has been a powerful tool for revealing systematic regularities in systems across a range of topics from physics and biology to cities, and for understanding the underlying principles of their organization and growth. Here, we apply this framework to institutions of higher learning in the United States and show that, like organisms, ecosystems and cities, they scale in a surprisingly systematic fashion following simple power law behavior. We analyze the entire spectrum encompassing 5,802 institutions ranging from large research universities to small professional schools, organized in seven commonly used sectors, which reveal distinct regimes of institutional scaling behavior. Metrics include variation in expenditures, revenues, graduation rates and estimated economic added value, expressed as functions of total enrollment, our fundamental measure of size. Our results quantify how each regime of institution leverages specific economies of scale to address distinct priorities. Taken together, the scaling of features within a sector and shifts in scaling across sectors implies that there are generic mechanisms and constraints shared by all sectors which lead to tradeoffs between their different societal functions and roles. We particularly highlight the strong complementarity between public and private research universities, and community and state colleges, four sectors that display superlinear returns to scale.
Developing an interdisciplinary science of sustainability: What can be learned from water systems? with Christa Brelsford and participants of the SFI Water systems workshop. In review
Recognizing the divide between conceptual frameworks of physical scientists and social scientists studying water management, a workshop was convened to enable scientists from different disciplines to develop a joint language. As a result of this workshop, we argue that we should view socio-hydrological systems as structurally co-constituted of social, engineered, and natural elements and study the “characteristic management challenges” that emerge from this structure and recur across time, space and socio-economic contexts. This is in contrast to theories that view these systems as separately conceptualized natural and social domains connected by bi-directional feedbacks. A focus on emergent characteristic management challenges encourages us to go beyond searching for evidence of feedbacks and instead ask questions such as: what types of innovations have successfully been used to address these challenges? What structural components of the system affect its resilience to hydrological events and through what mechanisms? Are there differences between successful and unsuccessful strategies to solve one of the characteristic management challenges? If so, how is this affected by institutional structure, and ecological and economic context? We also argue that water systems are an important class of coupled systems for sustainability science because they are particularly amenable to the kinds of systematic comparisons that allow knowledge to accumulate. Indeed, the characteristic management challenges we identify are few in number and recur over most of human history and most geographical locations. This recurrence should allow us to accumulate knowledge to answer the above questions by studying the long historical record of institutional innovations to manage water systems.
Laws – be they common law, statutes or the constitution – evolve continuously. People make use of them; discovering ambiguities or disagreeing on their proper application, they ask courts throughout the nation to re-interpret them. What are the political drivers of this process? This paper reconstructs the network of citations to legal precedent for a period of forty years for all U.S. environmental court cases, providing full information regarding which precedent is affirmed or undermined by written opinions. The paper introduces multiple statistics that cap- ture dynamic features of this network and significant changes in the legal rules of environmental governance. Using these measures, the paper tests whether legal change is affected by changes in the preferences of pivotal legislators, as proposed by the positive political theory of the courts. Overall, the dynamic properties of this network reveal that laws evolve largely independently from shifts in legislative power.