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Use-inspired research

Use-inspired research


Management of shared or "common pool" resources — like shared grazing or fishing grounds or the fragile reputation of an industry or profession — is a hard problem. The possibility that some parties will over consume, pollute or otherwise damage the resource as they extract their personal value from it is always present. To date, researchers have identified basic principles for how humans organize themselves to govern common resources, but these are mostly static principles. This project aims to develop a next-generation understanding: what makes groups successful in changing the institutional rules that govern behavior related to common resources..

Group experiments and agent-based modeling techniques will be used to test how people create formal rules as they interact and how and why rule sets evolve. The spatially explicit real-time experimental environment will allow researchers to test the crafting of formal rules for diverse types of ecologies. Data from experiments are used to develop agent-based models to examine institutional evolution and adaptation in a wider set of typologies of ecologies and constitutional arrangements.

As part of this CAREER project, simulated, visually compelling, common pool environments will be created for subjects to use during experiments. These simulations will be adapted for educational use. They will enable students to learn more about common pools, to learn relevant computations, and to learn to craft governance mechanisms in complex social situations. An e-book on social simulation will also be developed, to help other scholars develop useful materials.


National Science Foundation Division of Social and Economic Sciences


March 2008 — January 2014