The Effects of Illegal Armed Groups on Municipal Expenditures in Colombia

This study assesses the effects of illegal armed groups on expenditures made by municipal governments in Colombia between 2000 and 2013. Specifically, the study examines how the presence of illegal armed groups seems to affect the level of municipal expenditures, while distinguishing between capital investments and current social spending. Limits on political participation and institutional weaknesses helped to propagate the violence that disrupted Colombia in the 1970s and 1980s. Searching for solutions, Colombia transferred important decision-making responsibilities from the central government to regional and local governments. Paradoxically this decentralization opened an opportunity for illegal armed groups to play meaningful roles in local political and economic life, eventually taking control over local resources in several municipalities. To assess the role of these non-state armed groups in municipal resource allocation, our empirical analysis exploits annual data on municipal expenditures and local armed conflict. Empirical results suggest a differentiated impact on capital investments and social spending. These results are robust to multiple treatment framings and definitions.

Improving Water Quality and Equity through Sensor Data and Machine Learning Models

The U.S. National Science Foundation Convergence Accelerator has awarded $650,000 to a team led by University of Kansas scientists to develop a water management data ecosystem that collects water quality and quantity data, models it with machine learning algorithms, and makes insights available on a dashboard for local government officials and state government agencies. KU researchers will work with Viaanix, an Internet of Things technology company, and officials from the Kansas Water Office for the project, titled "Improving Water Quality and Equity through Sensor Data and Machine Learning Models."

The project is led by KU faculty William Duncan, principal investigator on the project and assistant research professor of data science at KU, Dietrich Earnhart, director of the Center for Environmental Policy and professor of economics, Belinda Sturm, director of the Kansas NSF EPSCoR program and interim vice chancellor for research, and Millicent Coil, associate professor of the practice in mechanical engineering. Other team members include Bruce Fritz and Jay Talreja from Viaanix, and Wes McCary from the Kansas Water Office.

This project will build on the work of the Kansas NSF EPSCoR-funded ARISE project, "Adaptive and Resilient Infrastructures driven by Social Equity." A key partner on this work is the Kansas Data Science Consortium, part of the ARISE project. Students in the KDSC will build the dashboard and collect water data from the many different sources available, including the Kansas Geological Survey.

Food Waste Prevention

The Center for Environmental Policy is currently engaging the local community on the prevention of food waste using field studies. In particular, the Center is conducting field studies in three settings: (1) institutional dining on the University of Kansas campus, (2) Lawrence restaurants, and (3) a local school.

As the first step in these studies, the Center assesses the amount of food waste created by consumers. As the second step, the Center runs a field experiment to assess the effectiveness of an intervention designed to prevent food waste. These interventions involve implicit appeals to reduce waste by informing consumers of local food insecurity or the financial burden to the institution in the case of KU institutional dining. The institutional dining study also explores pre-consumer food waste. The restaurant study also explores the role of portion size for commonly wasted food items, such as French fries.

The restaurant study involves the collaboration of the Douglas County Food Policy Council, a local agency partner of the Center. 

FEWtures: Resilient Farms. Thriving Communities

Mary Hill, associate director of CEP, and her team are exploring the economic viability of using renewable energy to: (1) increase usable water resources by treating degraded and unused water supplies, and (2) produce ammonia that can both store energy and be used as fertilizer. They are studying the potential of these innovations to create a multifaceted economic system able to sustain small town and rural (STAR) communities, and maintain needed agricultural production.

Learn more about the project at the FEWtures website.

Biofuels and Climate Change: Farmers' Land Use Decisions

The Biofuels and Climate Change: Farmers' Land Use Decisions (BACC:FLUD) project examined farmers' decisions to grow crops as feedstocks for renewable energy production ("biofuel crops") and farmers' adaptation to climate change. BACC:FLUD was a collaborative project uniting faculty across multiple social and natural science disciplines, along with engineering and the visual arts, and between the educational institutions of the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, and Wichita State University. This project was initially funded by a six year grant from the National Science Foundation.

The BACC:FLUD project was initially embedded within a larger research project examining climate change and renewable energy, which represents Phase VI of the Kansas NSF EPSCoR (KNE) program.