Current Special Research Topics
This page highlights a few of the mainly multidisciplinary research topics currently being investigated by DARE and other departments at Colorado State University. As Colorado, the West, the country, and the world continue to evaluate the trade-offs inherent in agricultural, environmental, and natural resource allocation decisions, this list will continue to grow and evolve in response to interesting, cutting-edge research.
Intellectual capital is an increasingly important driver of economic growth and wellspring for improvement in the human condition. Traditional sectors in agriculture, natural resources, and industry are being revolutionized by the creation of new knowledge and technologies. In 2006 global R&D spending exceeded $1 trillion. In agriculture, over $30 billion a year is spent on R&D, with two thirds spent by governments and one third by industry. Work here at CSU is aimed at analyzing the economics of innovation, investigating the role of intellectual property as an incentive for innovation, and understanding the impacts on agriculture and natural resource. For instance, what is the right division of innovative labor between the public sector and the private sector? How important are entrepreneurs, versus established industry, in introducing new technologies? How can government labs and research universities enhance, through innovative methods of technology transfer, the beneficial impacts of their R&D? How can the exchange of intellectual property--such as patents or plant breeder's rights--be improved upon, such as through enhanced market mechanisms? How do industry groups and special interest groups influence the rate and direction of R&D? Specific projects being undertaken include
- the technological trajectories of agricultural biotechnologies
- "neglected" R&D projects for agricultural development in low income countries
- the political economy of European policies on biotechnologies in agricultural and food markets
- the patenting of biotechnologies in over 60 countries worldwide
- the patent landscape in biofuels
- more efficient exchange of technical data, patent rights, and ethical provenance for stem cell R&D
- alternative models of patenting, licensing, and new venture creation for the "entrepreneurial" university
Dr. Greg Graff is the primary contact for this research area.
Invasive species pose potential and real economic threats to U.S. agriculture and other sectors of the economy by impacting U.S. consumers, producers, and trade through reduced crop and livestock production. Additionally, invasive pests’ present stresses on native ecosystems, such as forests, which can severely reduce forest species populations, altered forest composition, and threaten habitat for endangered animal species. Information about potential economic consequences of invasive species and the costs and benefits of programs to control them can help policy makers make informed management decisions.
Dr. Craig Bond is currently involved in projects involving forest pathogens in high elevation pine stands with an interdisciplinary team, as well as studying zebra and quagga mussels in Colorado. Dr. Dustin Pendell has published work on the economic impacts of a FMD outbreak. Other faculty in DARE that have dealt with livestock and wildlife disease issues include Dr. Dana Hoag, Dr. Steve Koontz, Dr. James Pritchett, and Dr. Andy Seidl, and Dr. Dawn Thilmany.
Alternative energy research is one of the most pressing research topics in natural resource economics. Economic studies in this area frequently evaluate the feasibility of alternatives to traditional fossil fuels, which include wind, solar energy, and bio-fuels. Alternative energy also encompasses marketing, policy and legal research, as a key issue is the impact of corn production for fuel versus food. New markets have also emerged, such as the carbon credit market and the futures markets for wind energy. Additional research opportunities exist for comparison of costs between production, refining, and distribution systems, the market potential and consumer preferences for biofuels and related capital goods, the regional and national economic and environmental impacts of biofuel production and distribution, and the general equilibrium and welfare implications of the evolving biofuels market.
Dr. Norm Dalsted
and Extension Specialist Rodney Sharp
are evaluating the feasibility of alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, and biodiesel as a primary energy source for Colorado farmers and ranchers. Their ongoing research addresses the needed financial outlay and operating costs associated with alternative energy as a replacement for conventional energy sources, particularly for irrigation uses. Dr. Dana Hoag
examines how biofuels companies can benefit from emerging carbon markets and carbon regulation.
Over the last few decades, economic experiments have become a well-respected tool in economic research. In such experiments, subjects in a laboratory or in the field face meaningful monetary incentives that resemble incentives from the real world, albeit scaled down. Similar to other empirical studies, experiments can be used for several purposes: testing theories, finding correlations between different variables, and examining institutions. Laboratory experiments are complements to empirical studies, when real-world data are not available or the relationship between two or more variables is difficult to disentangle. They offer the advantage that all variables can be held constant, while only the variable of interest is varied across different treatments to find its impact.
Dr. Stephan Kroll is the primary contact for this research area. He is currently undertaking several projects, including some with other members of the DARE faculty:
- Inquiries into the acceptability and efficiency of incentive-based instruments for environmental and congestion problems; for example, Pigouvian taxes and responsive pricing;
- Experiments to test price behavior and efficiency of several agricultural and water market institutions (one project on water markets with Dr. Chris Goemans);
- Food valuation projects to examine consumers’ willingness to pay for local and/or organic food (with, among others, Dr. Dawn Thilmany and Dr. Marco Costanigro, as well as economist Dr. Joshua Goldstein in CSU’s Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources);
- An examination of coordination problems related to forest fire prevention (with U.S. National Forest Service economists Dr. Thomas Brown and Dr. Patricia Champ, who are also adjunct faculty for DARE); and
- Experiments on decision-making in groups.