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Internationally collaborative seed grant recipients: Where are they now?

Over the last two years, the Social Policy Institute and McDonnell International Scholars Academy at Washington University in St. Louis have partnered in sponsoring internationally collaborative research. The first projects, funded at the beginning of 2020, explored social policy globally to understand systemic challenges within and between nations.

However, as with everything in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the awarded research projects just as the work began. And, like many researchers, including those at the Social Policy Institute, there was an immediate need to understand the impacts of the pandemic to support policymakers in making quick decisions for much-needed relief.

“We witnessed the real-world issues that COVID-19 brought forward and dove into problem-solving solutions that could impact the recovery.

Michal Grinstein-Weiss, Director of the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis

The Political Implications of Crime in South Africa: Fear, Distrust, and Disengagement, A Threat to Democracy?

The research conducted by James Gibson, Amanda Gouws, Collette Schulz-Herzenberg and Judith February from universities in the U.S. and South Africa investigated the relationship between the attitudes and behaviors of crime victims and the processes of democratization within South Africa. The researchers sought to understand the intersection of gender-based violence and crime on the function of emerging democratic systems.

When pandemic restrictions began in South Africa, the research team realized their plan to use face-to-face interviews to develop an experimental vignette was impossible. Instead, they reimagined an experimental design that also met the original objectives of the project. They decided to redesign their research survey criteria to fit the new socially distant world using shorter telephone-only interviews.

“This project ran straight into the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the various lockdowns in South Africa, resulting in significant delays in all aspects of the research.

wrote the researchers in an initial grant report.

The preliminary data is collected and the researchers hope to publish their findings on gender-based violence and its implications to nascent democracies soon.

Measuring child neglect and poverty across cultures: Importing and adapting the ICAST Tool for Israel 

At the onset of the pandemic, researchers Miriam Schiff in Israel and Melissa Reid-Jonson in the U.S., postponed their project to focus instead on the impacts of pandemic relief. Schiff focused on the impacts of COVID-19 relief for ultra-Orthodox Jews as well as understanding collegiate experiences during the pandemic in both Israel and Ukraine.

The original seed grant research, which planned to adjust the ISPCAN Child Abuse Screening Tools (ICAST) developed in the U.S. for use in the cultural setting of Israel, is planned to begin later this year. The research will now consider the new context of a post-pandemic world.

Dynamics of wealth and wealth poverty in later life: Life course determinants and health consequences among older Americans and Chinese.

The global partnership between Yu-Chih Chen, Nancy Morrow-Howell and Li-Chen Cheng from universities in the U.S., China and Taiwan demonstrate the possibilities of collaborative research despite international shutdowns. This particular study was not disrupted by the pandemic due to the nature of the research methods. The researchers explored the effects of wealth accumulation and asset poverty in older adults to understand where interventions could effectively support health over a lifetime. Researchers also studied how the intersection of health and wealth compared between the U.S. and China.

The team investigated the links between the decline in physical, mental, and cognitive health and asset poverty. The results from this study could help inform policies to increase better health later in life. The results of this study will be published in late 2021.

Emerging global research partnerships despite COVID-19 setbacks

Each research team navigated its own challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In a quickly shifting global context, researchers continued to investigate policy effects and find ways to collaborate internationally. The Social Policy Institute and McDonnell International Scholars Academy continue to foster international collaboration between researchers and global institutions. The research from the 2021 cohort of seed grant awardees will tackle COVID-19 related issues through artificial intelligence, technology and big data.

You can continue to follow the stories of our McDonnell grant awardees by signing up for the Social Policy Institute newsletter.