Publications
American Journal of Political Science (forthcoming) "Taking the Law to Court: Citizen Suits and the Legislative Process"
I propose a formal representation of the way in which citizen suits aggregate the preferences of the citizenry. I then analyze the role of citizen suits in promoting policy-making in legislatures. In my analysis, citizen suits encourage legislators to shift spending away from particularistic spending and towards public goods, and helps forge compromises that increase collective welfare.
Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining Conference 2015 (In Press) "Computational Data Sciences and the Regulation of Banking and Financial Services (with Sharyn O'Halloran, Sameer Maskey, Geraldine McAllister, and David K. Park)
In this paper, we apply natural language processing and machine learning to analyze the United States Government's regulation of the banking and financial services sector. We show that with these methods it is possible to automatically extract from legal texts important policy features, for example regulators' discretion to oversee financial markets.
Ecological Economics (2015) "Path Dependence, Political Competition, and Renewable Energy Policy: A Dynamic Model" (with Johannes Urpelainen and James Rising)
We seek to understand the political determinants of energy transitions by modeling the iterated political competition between parties holding different preferences regarding clean energy production in a world characterized by stochastic energy prices and technological learning. We do this by developing a computational game theoretic model. We find path dependence in energy transitions, and show that political dynamics affect investment paths particularly when one party is more ideologically committed than the other.
In Review
PNAS (R&R) "Dynamics of Beneficial Epidemics (with SFI Postdocs as part of the 72 Hrs of Science Project)
This paper is the product of an experiment. Fiften SFI Postdocs spanning half a dozen fields got together for 72 hours to see if we could conceive and realize a science project in that amount of time. We chose to study the dynamics of the spread of beneficial elements in a population, in contrast to detrimental elements such as viruses or parasites. We found that beneficial elements tend to spread faster than exponentially in a variety of scenarios, from evolutionary settings to social ones. News release
The Autonomy of Law from Politics: Evidence from a Network Analysis of US Environmental Law"
Is the interpretation and enforcement of laws beholden to short-term changes in political power? To answer this question, I present a dataset of over 10000 U.S. environmental court cases, from which I reconstruct the network of citations to legal precedent over forty years. Using network theory, I find that, contrary to the mainstream view in political science, legal change is not primarily driven by shifts in political coalitions. As an interpretation, I hypothesize that courts enjoy some autonomy from politics because they offer both continuity and change. In doing so, they strike a balance between commitment and adaptation to novelty, something other political institutions usually fail to do.
Working Papers
"The Institutional Foundations of Sustainability: What Can We (Not) Learn from Political Economy?" (with Johannes Urpelainen)
We argue that the political institutions considered successful for ensuring peace and promoting growth are insufficient for meeting the challenges of sustainability. We highlight three fundamental characteristics of sustainability problems: they exhibit long-term dynamics, multiple spatial and social scales and exceptional levels of complexity. Via examples, we show why prevalent political institutions are ill-adapted and argue that we need complementary institutions.
"Conflict and Causal Inference with Spatially Disaggregated Data : Potentials and Limits" (with Johannes Castner and Peter Gocev)
Sub-national geographical information allows us to go beyond cross-national analyses of conflict. Yet, many empirical analyses attempting to test causal claims and making use of such disaggregated data do not deal with the fact that actors of a conflict within a polity are strategically interdependent. In the causal inference framework, this represents a major violation of SUTVA, which cannot simply be corrected by controlling for spatial spillovers. We argue that theoretical models of civil conflict are incompatible with standard empirical approaches that use sub-national data and propose alternative uses of this data.
Past work in environmental science
Chemosphere (2011) "Modeling Biogeochemical Processes of Phosphorus for Global Food Supply" (with Emmanuel Frossard and Roland Scholz)
This paper proposes a simple model to represent the coupled dynamics of phosphorus in the soil and in the human agricultural system. The primary contribution is a parsimonious representation of the soil cycle, appropriate for assessing the sustainability of the anthropogenic food cycle at the global scale. A small dataset provides a preliminary test of the proposed soil cycle model.