Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Friday, October 9, 2009

Faculty receive grants, share expertise

The National Science Foundation has awarded La Follette School professor Donald Moynihan an $82,480 grant to study how different levels of government, non-profits and private actors can prepare to respond to crises. The project will further understanding of how organizations interact and form relationships. When a crisis occurs, organizations must collaborate to respond effectively. But limited familiarity and experience among these organizations makes coordination difficult, resulting in delays and duplication in the critical hours after an event.

Moynihan's 2008 book, The Dynamics of Performance Management: Constructing Information and Reform, won the Best Book Award from the Public and Nonprofit Division of the Academy of Management. The Dynamics of Performance Management examines the growth and implementation of reforms intended to make government work better. In addition, Moynihan took over as the La Follette School's associate director in July when Menzie Chinn finished his term.

The Wall Street Journal rates Chinn's Econbrowser blog among the top 25 economics blogs. Chinn and his co-blogger, James D. Hamilton, a professor of economics at the University of California, San Diego, have been analyzing current economic conditions and policy since June 2005. On a scale of one to five, Chinn and Hamilton earned five light bulbs for originality, five calculators for geekiness and three reading glasses for readability. Per the Journal's judging criteria, that means Chinn "consistently includes original insights" and the judges assume he knows "what the Phillips curve is." The three reading glasses rating suggests that he "should keep [his] day job," which is good news for his students enrolled in the fall 2009 public affairs 974 course Policy Responses to the Great Recession.

Also, Chinn has won a $10,000 grant from the University of Wisconsin– Madison Center for World Affairs and the Global Economy to pursue his research on the determinants of how fast current account balances adjust. Chinn will investigate which economic factors (openness to trade and financial flows) and policies (exchange rate regimes, capital controls) determine the pace at which current account balances and real exchange rates adjust.

Melanie Manion was one of four experts invited by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China to present testimony and answer questions during a May roundtable discussion on "What 'Democracy' Means in China after 30 Years of Reform." Drawing on her sabbatical research, Manion explained how, in recent years, without challenging the communist party monopoly, Chinese local people's congresses have become significant political players. "Understanding what has (and has not) changed in these congresses is a window on the 'officially acceptable' meaning of representative democracy in mainland China today," she says.

A study by Susan Webb Yackee demonstrates that public commenters who participate during the early phases of regulatory policymaking play an important agenda-setting role. Results suggest that these "public" participants — who are often interest groups — can help shape the content of regulatory proposals as they move through the regulatory process and may thwart unwanted regulations. "Understanding Commenter Influence During Agency Rule Development" appears in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

Andrew Reschovsky has been using a computer simulation of Wisconsin's school funding system to analyze the impact of the state budget on the allocation of aid among Wisconsin's 426 school districts. A June analysis suggested that for many districts, federal economic stimulus money would not make up for the cuts in Wisconsin state aid in the state budget. He built the model to assist the School Finance Network, a coalition of education groups representing elected school boards, school administrators, teachers' unions, and other groups interested in public education in Wisconsin, in developing school funding reform proposals.

This article appeared in the fall 2009 La Follette Notes newsletter for alumni and friends.