2022 Graduate Research Presentation Awards

Daniel Aum (International Affairs)

What Drives Innovation Spending: A Case Study of China

Why do some nations invest more in innovation than others do? Security, wealth, prestige – the benefits of science and technology programs are well known. Yet some countries spend more on innovation than others do. Drawing upon the theory of creative insecurity, this article seeks to examine the role of politics in innovation to the case study of China. The hypothesis: when China’s leaders face greater threats from abroad than at home, Beijing will invest more in innovation. Applying mixed methods, this study finds support for the hypothesis but also finds unexplained gaps. To account for this, this paper proposes a complementary theory of “creative ambition,” the idea that China’s efforts to innovate are not merely defensive in nature, but also offensive in intent to expand its power and influence. This case study should interest both scholars and policymakers who follow innovation, international relations, and China.

Xin Gu (Economics)

Peer Effects and Online Education Participation: A Big Data Perspective

We study online course participation and estimate peer effects on online attendance using a unique dataset from a nonprofit large-scale online teacher training program in China. We overcome the traditional data limitation in a big data framework. The large-volume platform log data allow us to observe the accurate synchronous participating duration at the individual-course-lecture level. We categorize peers into three exclusive groups: i) peers who attend the same lecture, ii) lecture peers who come from the same county, iii) lecture peers who come from the same school. By controlling for individual, course, and lecture fixed effects to partial out unobserved heterogeneity, we estimate the causal effects of peer participant numbers on how long an individual decides to stay in an online synchronous lecture. We find the more peers stay longer in a synchronous lecture, the longer the trainees themselves remain in the same lecture. We also find the estimated peer effects increase with the relationship intimacy of peer groups. The results imply strengthening online social ties may promote online course participation. The policy implication is relevant for MOOCs, online degree programs, and remote job training.

Benjamin Wills (History and Sociology)

Equity Implications of Innovations in Care Delivery: The Case(s) of Direct-To-Consumer Telepharmacies

Emboldened by an enthusiastic capital market and manifest inefficiencies, the United States healthcare marketplace is being innovated upon at high speed. Among innovations in drugs and devices, care models have also been the focus of disruptors’ dollars. Direct-to-consumer telepharmacies constitute a young (less than 4 years old) and already multibillion dollar industry that aims to streamline the patient/consumer’s health/wellness journey. Rather than the traditional model of care, where patients identify an issue, make an appointment, and see a provider about that issue a week or several later, DTC telepharmacies target potential consumers with targeted advertisements about a specific condition – perhaps most famously, phallic cacti for erectile dysfunction from leading DTC telepharmacy hims – and take the user down a streamlined purchase experience. The next thing the consumer knows, they are a virtual patient receiving an automatically renewing mail-order subscription for male pattern baldness, erectile dysfunction, or performance anxiety, just several among many available conditions that can be treated by these companies.

Trevor Wallace (Economics)

Nurse Practitioner Scope of Practice and Diabetes Health Care Costs

Diabetes mellitus patients require regular preventive care from healthcare professionals to avoid potentially life-threatening complications. One approach for increasing access to primary care for diabetic patients is to expand nurse practitioner scope of practice (SOP) to allow these providers to practice independently. This study examines whether there is a causal relationship between expanding nurse practitioner SOP and the cost and quality of diabetes care. I exploit state variation in these SOP laws to estimate the effect of these laws on diabetes healthcare. Preliminary results indicate urban counties where nurse practitioners were allowed to perform with full SOP experienced a reduction in annual costs for diabetic health care. In rural counties primary care usage increased and rates of some surgeries to address untreated diabetes fell. Allowing full scope of practice for nurse practitioners may help reduce the cost of healthcare for diabetic patients without diminishing the quality of care being provided.