Preface to the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Political Science

Program Description

Given the growing frequency of civil conflicts in the world, and the security concerns these conflicts engender for the United States in the 21st century, the development of human capital that is equipped to deal with these challenges is critical for the national security of the country. The Department of Political Science at the University of North Texas (UNT) initiated a unique program to provide 10 undergraduate students (recruited from across the country) the opportunity to engage in graduate-level research in conflict management and peace studies in a senior faculty-mentored, in-residence, eight-week, Summer Research Experience (SRE) that integrates training in civil conflict management with training in propositional calculus and computer simulation skills. Participants used propositional calculus and simulations to develop theoretical propositions that will be tested empirically. Participants collected and analyzed empirical data and will report their findings at a national professional political science conference. Activities included workshops on computer simulations, research methodology, and the graduate school application process. There were also activities designed to build a sense of research community among students, faculty, and graduate student mentors.

The political science department at UNT is ideally positioned to offer such a program. With 27 full time faculty members, home to the Vivian Castleberry Peace Institute, and the only degree granting program in peace science in the Southwestern United States, and with some of the most noteworthy scholars in the field of international and civil conflict (as well as having faculty with substantial experience in managing undergraduate research programs) the UNT Department of Political Science is very well equipped to offer an REU on conflict management and peace science.

The Papers

The collection of papers in this issue of The Eagle Feather is distinguished by their level of quality, and by the sophistication of their empirical analyses.

Amber Smith of Prairie View A&M University examines the impact of educational access on civil conflict. She finds that higher educational access increases the likelihood of civil unrest. Leticia Longmiles, also of Prairie View A&M University, examines whether judicial independence improves human rights performance in Africa. Contrary to the findings of previous work on judicial independence and human rights, she finds that, at least in Africa, an independent judiciary does not have a significant impact on a country’s human rights record.

Odilia Coffta, from SUNY Brockport, conducts cutting edge research on the relationship of constitutional guarantees of indigenous rights and the political mobilization of indigenous peoples in Latin America. Melissa Martinez from St. Mary’s University of Texas, explores the relationship between foreign aid and civil war outcome and analyzes the impact these factors have on peace duration in a post-conflict environment. She finds that high levels of bilateral aid have a greater probability of promoting durable peace.

Craig Carpenter of St. Mary’s College of Maryland tests the theory that international rivalries that have severe conflicts in the initial phases of the rivalry will result in shorter rivalry duration. However, the findings of his study do not support the initial theory as higher levels of severity in the initial period of the conflict are related to slightly increased rivalry duration.

Conner Alford, from East Central University in Oklahoma, tests different forms of conflict settlement on the development of post-civil war legitimacy and found that while power sharing is significant in increasing the legitimacy of post-conflict arrangements following an ideological conflict, partitions do not promote regime legitimacy. Bobby Joe Trail, also from East Central University, examines the relationship between food price shocks and civil protest. He finds that the effects of food price shocks on protest are mitigated by whether a country is urbanized and wealthy.

Mark Adams of the University of North Texas examines the relationship between drugs and civil conflict. Using a Cox-Hazard Model analysis on 114 peace spells between 1945 and 1999 he finds that illegal drug trafficking in a country actually increases the duration of the peace spell following a civil war.

Lindsay Harroff from Furman University examines the relationship between characteristics of (1) conflict situations, (2) the participants in mediation processes, and (3) mediation strategies and the influence of these characteristics on mediation success. She finds that communication-based strategies may increase the likelihood of mediation success if the conflict situation does not meet conditions of ripeness, and characteristics of the mediator and the disputants’ representatives in the mediation process may further influence the likelihood of success.

Emily Barrett from the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, examines the impact of tangible and intangible issue salience on the emergence of interstate conflict and the likelihood of peace. She finds that when these two dimensions are within the same contentious issue they do increase the probability of armed conflict but do not impact the emergence of a peaceful settlement.

In sum, the following papers represent some of the best in undergraduate scholarship in political science and peace science. It is with great pride that we present to you these pieces in this special section of The Eagle Feather.