New Projects

Scholars receive funding for new projects in energy, virtual learning, and study habits.
New Projects


Catherine Wolfram, Cora Jane Flood Professor of Business Administration and faculty director of the Energy Institute at Haas, and Paul Gertler, Li Ka Shing Profes­sor in Economic and Policy Analysis, both of the Haas School of Business at the Univer­sity of California, Berkeley, have received a US$19 million grant from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID). The grant will support a five-year study that will explore how in­vestment in energy can reduce poverty and support prosperity in emerging nations.


“Intuitively, we all know that energy is quite literally an engine for economic de­velopment. Yet we are still very much in the dark about how and to what extent energy drives growth, especially in low-income countries,” says Wolfram.


Focusing on the energy sectors in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the Energy for Economic Growth study will be conducted jointly by the Energy Institute, the Center for Effective Global Action at UC-Berkeley, and the U.K.-based international development consultancy Oxford Policy Management. The researchers plan to produce six papers in the study’s first year, in the areas of electricity supply, governance, sustainable urbanization, large-scale renewables, extractives, and clean-tech design.



Magda Donia, a professor at the Telfer School of Business at the University of Ot­tawa in Ontario, and Thomas O’Neill of the University of Calgary, have received a grant of nearly CAN$110,000 from Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. In their four-year project, “Leading multicultural global virtual teams,” Donia and O’Neill will analyze data from the Uni­versity of North Carolina’s X-Culture Proj­ect, which teams up MBAs from around the world to create group reports on real-world business challenges. They’ll collaborate with the project’s creator, Vasyl Taras.


The researchers hope to identify how leaders effectively promote coopera­tion and interdependence among virtual team members. Donia and O’Neill will ask X-Culture group leaders to self-report their behavior and attributes and ask team mem­bers to rate leaders on the same measures. Team feedback will be shared with the leaders, so that researchers can study the impact of that intervention on leaders’ com­munication styles and team performance.



The Center for Audit Quality and the American Accounting Association have announced an expansion of their joint annual program, Access to Audit Personnel, which connects academics with audit practitioners willing to participate in re­search projects. The program was launched in 2012 to enable doctoral students and assistant professors seeking tenure to work with audit firm personnel; this year eligibility has been expanded to tenured faculty. Applicants must submit a proposal that outlines the theory and hypotheses to be tested in the experiment, along with a data collection protocol that is in an advanced stage of development.


Proposals must be submitted by February 1, 2017. More details can be found at



The U.S. National Science Foundation has awarded US$1 million from its Cyberlearn­ing and Future Learning Technologies Pro­gram to four researchers: Phillip Grimaldi, research scientist, and Richard Baraniuk, professor of engineering, at Rice University in Houston, Texas; Mike Mozer, professor of computer science and cognitive science at the University of Colorado–Boulder; and Hal Pashler, professor of psychology at the University of California–San Diego. The grant will support a four-year project that will analyze and improve the way students highlight reading passages as they study. The researchers will work with OpenStax, a provider of free online textbooks founded by Baraniuk and based at Rice.


The researchers will ask OpenStax readers to volunteer their highlights for a database. They’ll also conduct experiments at all three participating institutions. They’ll use their findings to design software that predicts students’ test performance based on what they’ve highlighted and create tools that use students’ highlighted infor­mation to create customized quizzes.


“Studies have shown that highlighting does little to improve learning outcomes, but students tend to think it does,” says Grimaldi. The team hopes this project will turn highlighting into a process that will actually improve learning outcomes.