Clair Brown, Professor

Closed (1) Creating a Modern, Sustainable, Caring Economy (up to 3 students)

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This research project is based on Prof. Brown’s book, Buddhist Economics, which presents an economic system that supports a comfortable, meaningful life in a sustainable world. Different aspects of this framework are being investigated with additional data collection and analysis. Blogs or op-ed are written, and the student can be a co-author if appropriate. Some of the questions we ask are:
How does economic growth change in a Buddhist Economic system compared to today’s mainstream economic system?
How will specific policies, such as more progressive taxes or shorter work weeks or guaranteed employment or , affect economic performance, including distribution of income, environmental impact, and quality of life?
How can specific policies directly affect how people feel about their lives (eg the Cantril ladder) or affect nonmarket activities and environmental degradation?
developing and estimating a holistic metric for California’s economic growth based on the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI)?

Background: Countries around the world measure economic performance by the growth of average national output (GDP), or average income per person. Then analysts use GDP per person to compare well-being across countries. Economists agree that GDP does not measure well-being because it ignores many valuable activities of daily life. GDP excludes anything that is not a market transaction—house work and child care are ignored; leisure activities are valued by the goods and services purchased; health and longevity are only registered by how much we spend on health care; and the list goes on. How income is distributed across families is ignored. Growth in GDP that increases incomes of the rich is counted the same as growth in GDP that increases incomes of the needy. Buddhist economics measures economic holistically, including the well-being of all people and of the earth.

All positions:
The overall learning outcomes are improved critical thinking skills; learning how to collect and evaluate data; and learning how to find, evaluate, and summarize articles on specific topics.

The specific tasks include:
Students will be given instruction on Buddhist Economics, including reading the book, as well as training and guidance on best practice for each specific task. Students will learn about conceptual frameworks of sustainability, welfare measurement, inequality metrics, and relevant economic theory related to the question being explored. Students will be undertaking independent, guided research, seeking the most up-to-date findings relevant for application and incorporation into the research question. Students will be undertaking data collection and organization, seeking the best available data for specific variables. The student will learn how to find multiple kinds of data and to navigate the practical limits of data availability, incorporating methods such as proxy measures, indexing, and data filling. They will also gain experience in assessing the reliability of data sources, and they will search a wide range of publicly available data.
The students will meet weekly with Professor and the research team to go over what is being and what to do next. Some meetings will be by conference call (eg, google chat)., Graduate Student

Qualifications: Students should be able to work independently, with critical thinking and initiative, and be good time managers. The students must be conscientious and able to organize and document their work. Interest in economics, welfare and sustainability is required. Also students are required to be able to navigate websites with the focus on obtaining data. Some basic Excel is used. Database, data scraping, website or coding are desired but not necessary.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Related website: http://buddhisteconomics.net

Closed (2) CoolClimate Network Data Science Project (up to 5 students)

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Data Science Interns to help collect data and build tools for the CoolClimate Network, an online portal providing climate change software tools and programs for local governments, households and businesses. http://coolclimate.org/



The overall learning outcomes are improved critical thinking skills; learning how to collect and evaluate data; and learning how to find, evaluate, and summarize information on specific topics.

The specific tasks include:
Students will be given instruction on carbon footprint analysis, as well as training and guidance on engaging residents, businesses and communities in climate action using data science software and programs. As background reading, students will be given a short selection of papers and example files to enhance their understanding of the CoolClimate Network and methodology. Students will learn about the most promising strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as best-practice methods for calculating carbon footprints and GHG reduction strategies. Students will further gain proficiency in data science methods, including data analysis, computation, econometrics and software coding. Disciplines covered include urban planning, economics, engineering, information technology, environmental science, and environmental policy. The students will meet weekly with the project director (and sometimes with professor) to go over what is being done and what to do next.

Position 1) California Climate Action Portal (up to 3 positions)
Students will build upon work by previous URAP CoolClimate Interns to develop a free online portal for California cities and residents to track key environmental progress indicators, including greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, demographic data, climate change impacts, equity, and drivers of change, including transportation, energy, waste, water and consumption. The tool integrates time series, spatial and micro data from a large number of datasets, and allows users multiple ways to interact with and download the data.

This will be independent, guided research, seeking development of a range of data science skills. The student will learn to collect and analyze data from multiple sources, display data using Tableau or using other methods. More advanced students will assist with data analysis and econometric model development, as well as communication of results to various stakeholder groups.

Basic Qualifications: Ability to work independently and efficiently. Interest in environmental science and policy. Background courses in economics, engineering, environmental science or policy a plus. Some basic Excel is desired, but otherwise will be taught. Database, data scraping, website or coding are desired but not necessary. Basic R and Python programming languages required for advanced data science positions.

Position 2) Data Science Software Developer (up to 2 positions)
This student will assist in the development of a wide range industry-leading carbon footprint software tools, including carbon footprint calculators for households and businesses, local government policy tools and behavior change programs. See tools at: http://coolclimate.org/.

This will be independent, guided research, seeking development of basic data science coding skills. The student will learn to understand, evaluate and analyze environmental data and make data intelligible and useful for users in online and mobile applications.

Qualifications: Intermediate skills in Javascript, PHP, SQL, git, React.js., HTML and CSS required, or ability to learn quickly. Proficiency in R and Python a plus.


Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Chris Jones, PhD, Director of the CoolClimate Network, UC Berkeley, Staff Researcher

Qualifications: See specific qualifications above. All students should be able to work independently, with critical thinking and initiative, and be good time managers. The students must be conscientious and able to organize and document their work, based on the specific guidance provided by project director and professor.

Weekly Hours: 9-11 hrs

Related website: http://coolclimate.org/

Closed (3) Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) for California (2 students)

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This research project is developing and estimating a holistic metric for California’s economic growth based on the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI).
Background: Countries around the world measure economic performance by the growth of average national output (GDP), or average income per person. Then analysts use GDP per person to compare well-being across countries. Economists agree that GDP does not measure well-being because it ignores many valuable activities of daily life. GDP excludes anything that is not a market transaction—house work and child care are ignored; leisure activities are valued by the goods and services purchased; health and longevity are only registered by how much we spend on health care; and the list goes on. How income is distributed across families is ignored. Growth in GDP that increases incomes of the rich is counted the same as growth in GDP that increases incomes of the needy.
Our alternative metric (post-GDP): GPI is a sustainable economy indicator that subtracts social and environmental negatives in a way that GDP does not. It has been calculated independently for a variety of states and countries. We are completing an accounting of the GPI for CA that: 1) compares our estimation in detail to a recent study which assessed all 50 states; 2) re-calculates the CA GPI with methodological changes that we propose to make GPI a comprehensive welfare measure, and conducts a sensitivity analysis; and 3) builds a policy-relevant GPI tool, using sensitivity analysis over time. All 3 threads of the project include preparing academic papers for submission.

The overall learning outcomes are improved critical thinking skills; learning how to collect and evaluate data; and learning how to find, evaluate, and summarize articles on specific topics.
The specific tasks include:
Students will be given instruction on the GPI, as well as training and guidance on best practice for each specific task. As background reading, students will be given a short selection of papers and example files to enhance their understanding of the GPI theory and methodology. Both students will learn about conceptual frameworks of sustainability, welfare measurement, inequality metrics, and relevant economic theory. The students will meet weekly with the GSR (and some times with professor) to go over what is being and what to do next.

Position 1)
This student will conduct a focused literature review of academic work on environmental and social valuations/costs. This will be independent, guided research, seeking the most up-to-date findings relevant for application and incorporation in the CA GPI welfare version. The student will learn to rapidly assess the quality and relevance of academic papers, using title, abstract, skimming and the find function. The student will be guided in organized documentation of the literature they review. They will learn to build on previous research and to incorporate other research results into current projects.

Position 2)
This student will be undertaking data collection and organization, seeking the best available data for each of the range of the 27 GPI components. The student will learn how to find multiple kinds of data and to navigate the practical limits of data availability, incorporating methods such as proxy measures, indexing, and data filling. They will also gain experience in assessing the reliability of data sources and be exposed to a wide range of publically available data, and the challenges and methods of taking data from its available form to the form necessary for a project.


Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Eli Lazarus (PhD student in ERG), Graduate Student

Qualifications: Qualifications: Both positions: Students should be able to work independently, with critical thinking and initiative, and be good time managers. The students must be conscientious and able to organize and document their work, based on the specific guidance provided by the GSR and professor. Position 1) The student should have good English reading comprehension ability. Some interest in economics, welfare and/or sustainability will be helpful. Position 2) The student is required to be able to navigate websites with the focus on obtaining data. Some basic Excel is desired, but otherwise will be taught. Database, data scraping, website or coding are desired but not necessary.

Weekly Hours: 6-8 hrs

Related website: https://erg.berkeley.edu/people/lazarus-eli/