August 29, 2008

C.U. Population Program Receives Gov’t Grant

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The Cornell Population Program’s progress toward its goal of becoming a leading center for national and international demographic research has been significantly boosted by a $1.15 million grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health.
Each year, the NIH’s Demographic and Behavioral Science Branch awards one such grant to a new program showing the greatest promise of becoming a top population research center. The grant money, which began to flow on August 15 of this year, will be spread over a five-year period.
It will be used to support the development of the CPP’s infrastructure as well as its research, which focuses on three main areas: families and children, health behaviors and disparities, and poverty and inequality.
Prof. H. Elizabeth Peters, policy analysis and management, and director of the CPP, explained that the grant money will be used to support the CPP in several important ways.
“The NIH awards this grant to generate infrastructure growth through the support of several core services,” she explained. “The biggest part of this grant is used to support what is called the development core, which refers to activities used to promote population research, such as the awarding of seed grants to researchers and the organization of working groups on key subjects.”
Peters said that the money will also be used to enhance the computing and statistics cores, which provide workshops and support services to aid the demographic research of the CPP’s 71 faculty associates, who hail from 16 departments and programs as diverse as Labor Economics and Neurobiology and Behavior.
The CPP was founded in 2007 to coordinate and promote domestic and international population research, to facilitate the acquisition of research funding, to enhance interdisciplinary training and to turn research into policy recommendations.
It is physically and administratively tied to the College of Human Ecology’s Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center which, in the words of Prof. Dan Lichter, policy analysis and management, and director of the BLCC, as well as associate director of the CPP, “is the administrative umbrella for the CPP, the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging, and the Applied Demographic Program.”
Lichter explained that the CPP plays an integral role within the BLCC, helping to expand its research focus.
“My goal as director of the BLCC has been to broaden the research mission of the Center by supplementing historical interests in aging and child development with a new focus on health, poverty, and other related research subjects,” he said.
Lichter explained that the themes of CPP research, which include public policy, racial and ethnic diversity, migration and immigration, social and biological mechanisms, and national and international research, help to achieve his goal of expanding and modernizing the BLCC’s research interests.
He, too, stressed the interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of the CPP’s operation.
“We see the CPP specifically and the BLCC generally as places to generate new synergies on campus among different departments and individuals interested in social science research, places for researchers who might otherwise not meet to gather and engage in cooperative scholarship,” Lichter said.
The CPP receives additional funding from a seed grant awarded by the Office of the Vice Provost for the Social Sciences, which includes funds from the College of Human Ecology, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
Although there is currently no undergraduate major in demographics or population studies, the field intersects with existing programs of study, such as Industrial and Labor Relations, Sociology, and Policy Analysis and Management.
News of the grant received positive feedback.
Pyrs Carvolth ‘11, said, “Our founders said, ‘Any person, any study,’ and strengthening the field of population research at Cornell will only make our school more attractive to future students.”
Prof. John M. Abowd, industrial and labor relations and a member of the CPP’s executive board, sees the winning of the grant as a key victory for the CPP.
“This grant is recognition of the work that’s already been going on here,” he said.
To create a winning program, he explained, “You have to begin with a core of researchers who have been successful at winning research grants,” he said, “… then add to that core, the type of superstructure that can be developed through grants such as this one.”
Both Abowd and Peters expressed hope that the CPP will become prominent enough in a few years to win a second, larger type of NIH grant that provides funding to centers that have already established themselves as leaders in population research.
Peters said, “This grant will give the CPP an opportunity to prove that it has what it takes to become a national and international leader in population research and also to secure additional funding from the NIH in the future.”