Presidential Fund awards $1 million in second round of grants

The Presidential Fund for Innovation in International Studies has awarded $1 million to support three new projects that will assess the societal and security implications caused by China's female deficit, create incentives to provide health-care services in rural China and investigate the impact of higher education's rapid expansion in developing countries. Smaller planning grants also have been awarded to support an international health and society initiative on the Indian subcontinent and to develop psychosocial treatment for children orphaned by the tsunami in Indonesia.

"These projects show great potential to advance human knowledge, help devise sustainable solutions and build a better, more secure future for millions around the world," President John Hennessy said.

In 2005, the Office of the President and Stanford's International Initiative established a $3 million "intellectual venture capital fund" to encourage interdisciplinary research and teaching focusing on the global challenges of pursuing peace and security, improving governance and advancing human well-being. The first $1 million in grants for projects lasting up to three years was awarded last February to eight faculty teams examining issues such as the HIV/AIDS treatment revolution in sub-Saharan Africa and the issue of food security and the environment. A request for proposals for the third round will be issued next fall, with applications due by Dec. 14, 2007, and awards announced in February 2008.

As in the first round of grants, priority this year was given to faculty teams from disciplines that typically do not work together and whose projects address issues that fall broadly within the three primary research areas of the International Initiative. Projects had to be based on collaborative research and teaching, involving faculty from two or more disciplines and, where possible, from two or more of Stanford's seven schools. The work is expected to produce new field research, conferences, research papers, books, symposia and courses for Stanford students.

"It's impressive to see the committed, collaborative and innovative ways Stanford faculty are joining together in new interdisciplinary research and teaching to generate new understanding of the linkages among complex problems and train a new generation of leaders to address them effectively," said Coit D. Blacker, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and chair of the International Initiative Executive Committee.

This year's projects and their principal investigators are:

  • Female Deficit and Social Stability in China: Implications for International Security. Melissa Brown, anthropological sciences; Marcus Feldman, biological sciences; and Matthew Sommer, history. As the number of surplus marriage-age men in China approaches 47 million in 2050, this project will study factors that predict men's inability to marry before 30, the availability of social welfare to men and their families, their contribution to the floating population of rural-to-urban migrants, the labor-related migration of unmarried women and the impact of this migration on domestic stability and international security.

  • Health Care for One Billion: Experimenting with Incentives for the Supply of Health Care in Rural China. Scott Atlas, radiology, and Scott Rozelle, the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at the Freeman Spogli Institute. This project examines the effects of existing health policies and institutions in rural areas of China—including rural health insurance, privatization of rural clinics and investment in township hospitals. It also introduces a new experiment to study and realign incentives to address a serious flaw in China's health-care system: the practice in which doctors both prescribe and derive significant profits from drugs.

  • Potential Economic and Social Impacts of Rapid Higher Education Expansion in the World's Largest Developing Economies. Martin Carnoy, education; Amos Nur, geophysics; and Krishna Saraswat, electrical engineering. The development of higher education systems in Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) will have a major impact on their ability to transform into large, developed, knowledge-based economies. The team will investigate whether the way nation states expand and reform higher education in response to global pressures is an important indicator of societal capacity to achieve sustained economic growth. The project will examine different approaches of BRIC governments to higher education growth and reform, and ask whether these reflect differing levels of state capacity to expand the knowledge base for economic and social development. The researchers also will investigate whether the different approaches taken by each country result in significant changes in the analytical skills of university graduates, particularly scientists and engineers.

  • Two planning grants also were awarded:

  • Stanford International Health and Society Initiative: Proposal to Plan for an Initial Program in the Indian Subcontinent. Vinod K. Bhutani, pediatrics, and Nihar Nayak, obstetrics and gynecology. This project seeks to improve unacceptably high maternal and childhood morbidity and mortality rates in the Indian subcontinent by devising innovative strategies to bridge existing social and access barriers in the micro- and macro-health environment; includes leadership training and cooperative work on practice and policy strategies with experts from Stanford and the subcontinent.

  • Psychosocial Treatment of Children Orphaned by the Asian Tsunami in Indonesia. Hugh Solvason, psychiatry, and Donald Barr, sociology. This project's goal is to develop and implement changes to reduce the sense of dislocation, anxiety and behavioral problems among tsunami orphans at the As-Syafi'iyah Orphanage in Jakarta. By arranging the children into more cohesive groups that can operate like "families" rather than their current state of random associations typically found in orphanages, the project will create a new and ordered social system. In addition, Solvason and Barr plan to develop a system of counseling interventions for the most severely symptomatic children (to be supervised by Stanford psychiatry faculty). Translated measures of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder will be used to assess the success of the intervention.