First annual political institutions, economy conference highlights cross-disciplinary collaboration

by Bedrosian Center Staff

Political institutions and political economy are regularly studied topics in various scholarly disciplines. Yet, no regular forums exist to bring together political economy scholars from different research traditions.

The USC PIPE Collaborative believes cross-disciplinary collaboration is crucial for scientific breakthroughs. Engaging complex problems with a cross-disciplinary approach allows researchers to bring discipline-specific expertise to the debate, learn from one another, and arrive at solutions that might not be discovered otherwise.

With the goal of fostering cross-disciplinary synergies among political economy scholars and fill the need for a regular meeting place, the USC PIPE Collaborative hosted the First Annual Political Institutions and Political Economy Conference on March 15-16, convening major U.S. scholars from political science, economics, and law to cover important new research on topics such as the unilateral presidency, Congressional committees, city policies, electoral rules, political leadership, and partisanship.

“The PIPE Conference brought together a terrific set of scholars, all studying some aspects of political institutions and political economy from diverse methodological and substantive perspectives,” explained Elisabeth Gerber from the University of Michigan. “The excellent papers laid the foundation for robust, collegial discussions and a valuable learning experience for all.”

Research presentations on these topics were followed by specific comments by discussants and then general group feedback. Discussions were lively and critical, while constructive comments were provided to each author.

“My research has benefited tremendously from the feedback I received from conference participants,” noted Jon Rogowski of Harvard University.

Added Deborah Beim of Yale University: “As a presenter, it was an unusually productive experience — the mix of expertise in the room meant I got helpful feedback on all aspects of my project.”

Individual Paper Presentations

  • “The Unilateral Presidency, 1933-2007,” by Jon Rogowski (Harvard)
  • “Strategic Ignorance in Persuasion,” by Deborah Beim (Yale)
  • “A Behavioral Foundation for Audience Costs,” by Avidit Acharya (Stanford)
  • “Conflict and Change in Congressional Committees,” by Pamela Ban (Harvard)
  • “From Conquest to Centralization,” by Emily Sellars (Texas A&M University)
  • “Legislative Representation in a Flexible-List Electoral System,” by Carlo Prato (Columbia)
  • “City Policies, City Interests,” by Sarah Anzia (UC Berkeley)
  • “Leadership or Luck? Randomization Inference for Leader Effects,” by Anthony Fowler (University of Chicago)
  • “Strategic Mass Partisanship,” by Michael Sances (University of Memphis)

Conference Takeaways

Researchers were energized throughout the PIPE conference, with several underscoring the level of engagement within this distinguished group of peers. Among the key takeaways from the presentations and dialogue that followed:

  • Political Economy is a diverse and vibrant field, both theoretically and methodologically.
  • Despite scholars having similar research backgrounds, experiences differed – in terms of both specific knowledge of important literatures and methods of analysis.
  • Synergies were apparent, as discussant and audience comments generated clear value added, as presenters were provided with feedback that engaged their research critically but was different from what they normally receive.

“The PIPE Conference featured some of the best and most active scholars studying the politics of policymaking,” noted Anthony Fowler from the University of Chicago. “The continuation of this conference will likely have a meaningful and lasting impact on our understanding of political institutions and the political process.”