Elinor Ostrom

Elinor Claire "Lin" Ostrom (née Awan; August 7, 1933 – June 12, 2012) was an American political economist[1][2][3] whose work was associated with the New Institutional Economics and the resurgence of political economy.[4] In 2009, she shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Oliver E. Williamson for her "analysis of economic governance, especially the commons". To date, she remains the only woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics.[5]

After graduating with a B.A. and Ph.D. from UCLA, Ostrom lived in Bloomington, Indiana, and served on the faculty of Indiana University, with a late-career affiliation with Arizona State University. She was Distinguished Professor at Indiana University and the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science and co-director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University, as well as research professor and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University in Tempe.[6] She was a lead researcher for the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM CRSP), managed by Virginia Tech and funded by USAID.[7] Beginning in 2008, she and her husband Vincent Ostrom advised the journal Transnational Corporations Review.[8]

Elinor Ostrom
Nobel Prize 2009-Press Conference KVA-30
Ostrom in 2009
Elinor Claire Awan

August 7, 1933
DiedJune 12, 2012 (aged 78)
Bloomington, Indiana,
United States
CitizenshipUnited States
Spouse(s)Charles Scott
Vincent Ostrom (1965–2012; her death)
School or
New institutional economics
Alma materUCLA
Dwaine Marvick
John P. McIver
Information at IDEAS / RePEc

Personal life and education

Elinor Claire Awan was born in Los Angeles, California as the only child of Leah Hopkins, a musician, and Adrian Awan, a set designer.[9][10] Her parents separated early in her life, and Elinor lived with her mother most of the time.[11] She attended a Protestant church with her mother and often spent weekends with her father's Jewish family.[9][12] Growing up in the post-Depression era to divorced artisans, Ostrom described herself as a "poor kid."[11][13] Her major recreational activity was swimming, where she eventually joined a swimming team and swam competitively until she started teaching swimming to earn funds to help put herself through college.[14]

Ostrom grew up across the street from Beverly Hills High School, which she attended, graduating in 1951.[15] She regarded this as fortunate, for the school had a very high rate of college admittance. During Ostrom's junior year, she was encouraged to join the debate team. Learning debate tactics had an important impact on her ways of thinking. It allowed her to realize there are two sides to public policy and it is imperative to have quality arguments for both sides.[14] As a high school student, Elinor Ostrom had been discouraged from studying Trigonometry, as girls without top marks in Algebra and Geometry were not allowed to take the subject. No one in her immediate family had any college experience, but seeing that 90% of students in her high school attended college, she saw it as the "normal" thing to do.[14] Her mother did not wish for her to attend college, seeing no reason for it.[15]

She attended UCLA, receiving a B.A. (with honors) in political science at UCLA in 1954.[16] By attending multiple summer session and extra classes throughout semesters, she was able to graduate in three years. She worked at the library, dime store, and bookstore in order to pay for her fees, which were $50 per semester.[14] She married a classmate, Charles Scott, and worked at General Radio in Cambridge, Massachusetts while Scott attended Harvard Law School.[9] They divorced several years later when Ostrom began contemplating a PhD.[9][17] After graduation, she had trouble finding a job because employers presumed that she was only looking for jobs as a teacher or secretary. She began a job as an Export Clerk after taking a correspondence course for shorthand, which she later found to be helpful when taking notes in face-to-face interviews on research projects. After a year, she obtained a position as Assistant Personnel Manager in a business firm that had never before hired a woman in anything but a secretarial position. This job inspired her to think about attending graduate-level courses and eventually applying for a research assistantship and admission to a Ph.D. program.[14]

Lacking trigonometry from high school, she was consequently rejected for an economics PhD at UCLA.[18] She was admitted to UCLA's graduate program in political science, where she was awarded an M.A. in 1962 and a PhD in 1965.[16] She married political scientist Vincent Ostrom in 1963, whom she met while assisting his research on water resource governance in Southern California.[10] The teams of graduate students she was involved with were analyzing the political economic effects of a group of groundwater basins in Southern California. Specifically, Ostrom was assigned to look at the West Basin. She found it is very difficult to manage a common-pool resource when it is used between individuals.[14]

In 1961 Vincent Ostrom, Charles Tiebout and Robert Warren published "The organization of government in metropolitan areas," which would go on to be an influential article and introduced themes that would be central to the Ostroms' work.[15] However, the article aggravated a conflict with UCLA's Bureau of Governmental Research because, counter to the Bureau's interests, it advised against centralization of metropolitan areas in favor of polycentrism. This conflict prompted the Ostroms to leave UCLA.[15] They moved to Bloomington, Indiana in 1965, when Vincent accepted a political science professorship at Indiana University.[19] She joined the faculty as Visiting Assistant Professor. The first course she taught was American Government at 7:30.[9][20]


Ostrom was richly informed by fieldwork, both her own and that of others. During her PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles, she spent years studying the water wars and pumping races going on in the 1950s in her own dry backyard. In contrast to the prevailing rational-economic predictions of Malthusianism and the tragedy of the commons, she showed cases where humans were not trapped and helpless amid diminishing supplies. In her book Governing the Commons, she draws on studies of irrigation systems in Spain and Nepal, mountain villages in Switzerland and Japan, and fisheries in Maine and Indonesia.[21]

In 1973, Ostrom and her husband founded the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University.[22] Examining the use of collective action, trust, and cooperation in the management of common pool resources (CPR), her institutional approach to public policy, known as the Institutional analysis and development framework (IAD), has been considered sufficiently distinct to be thought of as a separate school of public choice theory.[23] She authored many books in the fields of organizational theory, political science, and public administration. Elinor Ostrom was a dedicated scholar until the very end of her life. Indeed, on the day before she died, she sent e-mail messages to at least two different sets of coauthors about papers that she was writing with them. She was the Chief Scientific Advisor for the International Council for Science (ICSU) Planet Under Pressure meeting in London in March, and Johan Rockstrom of the Stockholm Resilience Centre wrote that

"Lin, up until the very end, was heavily involved in our preparations for the Nobel Laureate dialogues on global sustainability we will be hosting in Rio 17th and 18th of June during the UN Rio+20 Earth Summit. In the end, she decided she could not come in person, but was contributing sharp, enthusiastically charged, inputs, in the way only she could."[24][25]

It was long unanimously held among economists that natural resources that were collectively used by their users would be over-exploited and destroyed in the long-term. Elinor Ostrom disproved this idea by conducting field studies on how people in small, local communities manage shared natural resources, such as pastures, fishing waters, and forests. She showed that when natural resources are jointly used by their users, in time, rules are established for how these are to be cared for and used in a way that is both economically and ecologically sustainable.[26]

She was senior research director of the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Distinguished Professor and Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science in the College of Arts and Sciences, and professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.[27]


Ostrom's early work emphasized the role of public choice on decisions influencing the production of public goods and services.[28] Among her better known works in this area is her study on the polycentricity of police functions in Indianapolis.[29] Caring for the commons had to be a multiple task, organised from the ground up and shaped to cultural norms. It had to be discussed face to face, and based on trust. Dr. Ostrom, besides poring over satellite data and quizzing lobstermen herself, enjoyed employing game theory to try to predict the behaviour of people faced with limited resources. In her Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University—set up with her husband Vincent, a political scientist, in 1973—her students were given shares in a national commons. When they simply discussed what they should do before they did it, their rate of return from their "investments" more than doubled. Her later, and more famous, work focused on how humans interact with ecosystems to maintain long-term sustainable resource yields. Common pool resources include many forests, fisheries, oil fields, grazing lands, and irrigation systems. She conducted her field studies on the management of pasture by locals in Africa and irrigation systems management in villages of western Nepal (e.g., Dang Deukhuri). Her work has considered how societies have developed diverse institutional arrangements for managing natural resources and avoiding ecosystem collapse in many cases, even though some arrangements have failed to prevent resource exhaustion. Her work emphasized the multifaceted nature of human–ecosystem interaction and argues against any singular "panacea" for individual social-ecological system problems.[30]

The Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis was meant to utilize diverse scholars throughout economics, political science, and other fields to collaborate and attempt to understand how institutional arrangements in a diverse set of ecological and social economic political settings affected behavior and outcomes.The goal was not to fly around the world collecting data, rather it is to create a network of scholars who live in particular areas of the world and had strong interests in forest conditions and forest policy conducted the studies.[14]

Design principles for Common Pool Resource (CPR) institution

Ostrom identified eight "design principles" of stable local common pool resource management:[31] She also discussed the eight "design principles" on Big Think.[32]

  1. Clearly defined (clear definition of the contents of the common pool resource and effective exclusion of external un-entitled parties);
  2. The appropriation and provision of common resources that are adapted to local conditions;
  3. Collective-choice arrangements that allow most resource appropriators to participate in the decision-making process;
  4. Effective monitoring by monitors who are part of or accountable to the appropriators;
  5. A scale of graduated sanctions for resource appropriators who violate community rules;
  6. Mechanisms of conflict resolution that are cheap and of easy access;
  7. Self-determination of the community recognized by higher-level authorities; and
  8. In the case of larger common-pool resources, organization in the form of multiple layers of nested enterprises, with small local CPRs at the base level.

These principles have since been slightly modified and expanded to include a number of additional variables believed to affect the success of self-organized governance systems, including effective communication, internal trust and reciprocity, and the nature of the resource system as a whole.[33]

Ostrom and her many co-researchers have developed a comprehensive "Social-Ecological Systems (SES) framework", within which much of the still-evolving theory of common-pool resources and collective self-governance is now located.[34]

Environmental protection

According to the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research, "Ostrom cautioned against single governmental units at global level to solve the collective action problem of coordinating work against environmental destruction. Partly, this is due to their complexity, and partly to the diversity of actors involved. Her proposal was that of a polycentric approach, where key management decisions should be made as close to the scene of events and the actors involved as possible." Ostrom helped disprove the idea held by economists that natural resources would be over-used and destroyed in the long run. Elinor Ostrom disproved this idea by conducting field studies on how people in small, local communities manage shared natural resources, such as pastures, fishing waters in Maine and Indonesia, and forests in Nepal. She showed that when natural resources are jointly used by their users, in time, rules are established for how these are to be cared for and used in a way that is both economically and ecologically sustainable.[35]

Ostrom's law

Ostrom's law is an adage that represents how Elinor Ostrom's works in economics challenge previous theoretical frameworks and assumptions about property, especially the commons. Ostrom's detailed analyses of functional examples of the commons create an alternative view of the arrangement of resources that are both practically and theoretically possible. This eponymous law is stated succinctly by Lee Anne Fennell as:

A resource arrangement that works in practice can work in theory.[36]

Awards and recognition

Ostrom was a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences[20] and president of the American Political Science Association and the Public Choice Society. In 1999, she became the first woman to receive the prestigious Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science.[37]

Ostrom was awarded the Frank E. Seidman Distinguished Award for Political Economy in 1998. Her presented paper, on "The Comparative Study of Public Economies",[38] was followed by a discussion among Kenneth Arrow, Thomas Schelling and Amartya Sen. She was awarded the John J. Carty Award from the National Academy of Sciences in 2004,[39] and, in 2005, received the James Madison Award by the American Political Science Association. In 2008, she became the first woman to receive the William H. Riker Prize in political science; and, the following year, she received the Tisch Civic Engagement Research Prize from the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University. In 2010, the Utne Reader magazine included Ostrom as one of the "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World".[40] She was named one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" in 2012.

The International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) awarded its Honorary Fellowship to her in 2002.

In 2008 she was awarded an honorary degree, doctor honoris causa, at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.[41]

Nobel Prize in Economics

Telephone interview with Elinor Ostrom.

In 2009, Ostrom became the first woman to receive the prestigious Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. "The announcement of her prize caused amazement to several economists," a Princeton economics professor said, "including some prominent colleagues who had never even heard of her."[42] The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences cited Ostrom "for her analysis of economic governance", saying her work had demonstrated how common property could be successfully managed by groups using it. Ostrom and Oliver E. Williamson shared the 10-million Swedish kronor (€990,000; $1.44 million) prize for their separate work in economic governance.[43] As she had done with previous monetary prizes, Ostrom donated her award to the Workshop she helped to found.[11][44]

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Ostrom's "research brought this topic from the fringe to the forefront of scientific attention...by showing how common resources – forests, fisheries, oil fields or grazing lands – can be managed successfully by the people who use them rather than by governments or private companies". Ostrom's work in this regard challenged conventional wisdom, showing that common resources can be successfully managed without government regulation or privatization.[45]


Ostrom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2011.[46][47] During the final year of her life, she continued to write and lecture, giving the Hayek Lecture at the Institute of Economic Affairs just eleven weeks before her death.[11] She died at 6:40 a.m. Tuesday, June 12, 2012, at IU Health Bloomington Hospital at the age of 78.[48] On the day of her death, she published her last article, "Green from the Grassroots," in Project Syndicate.[49][50] Indiana University president Michael McRobbie wrote: "Indiana University has lost an irreplaceable and magnificent treasure with the passing of Elinor Ostrom".[51] Her Indiana colleague Michael McGinnis commented after her death that Ostrom donated her share of the $1.4 million Nobel award money to the Workshop—the biggest, by far, of several academic prizes with monetary awards that the Ostroms had given to the center over the years.[24] Her husband Vincent died 17 days later from complications related to cancer. He was 92.[52]

Selected publications


  • Ostrom, Elinor (1990). Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521405997.
  • Ostrom, Elinor; Schroeder, Larry; Wynne, Susan (1993). Institutional incentives and sustainable development: infrastructure policies in perspective. Boulder: Westview Press. ISBN 9780813316192.
  • Ostrom, Elinor; Walker, James; Gardner, Roy (1994). Rules, games, and common-pool resources. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 9780472065462.
  • Ostrom, Elinor; Walker, James (2003). Trust and reciprocity: interdisciplinary lessons from experimental research. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. ISBN 9780871546470.
  • Ostrom, Elinor (2005). Understanding institutional diversity. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691122380.
  • Ostrom, Elinor; Kanbur, Ravi; Guha-Khasnobis, Basudeb (2007). Linking the formal and informal economy: concepts and policies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199237296.
  • Ostrom, Elinor; Hess, Charlotte (2007). Understanding knowledge as a commons: from theory to practice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262516037.

Chapters in books

  • Ostrom, Elinor (2009), "Engaging with impossibilities and possibilities", in Kanbur, Ravi; Basu, Kaushik, Arguments for a better world: essays in honor of Amartya Sen | Volume II: Society, institutions and development, Oxford New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 522–41, ISBN 9780199239979.

Journal articles

  • Ostrom, Elinor; Crawford, Sue E. S. (September 1995). "A grammar of institutions". American Political Science Review. 89 (3): 582–600. doi:10.2307/2082975. JSTOR 2082975.
  • Ostrom, Elinor (March 1998). "A behavioral approach to the rational choice theory of collective action: Presidential address, American Political Science Association, 1997". American Political Science Review. 92 (1): 1–22. doi:10.2307/2585925. JSTOR 2585925.
  • Ostrom, Elinor (June 2010). "Beyond markets and states: polycentric governance of complex economic systems". American Economic Review. 100 (3): 641–72. doi:10.1257/aer.100.3.641. Pdf version.

See also


  1. ^ "No Panaceas! Elinor Ostrom talks with Fran Korten". Shareable: Civic System. March 18, 2010. Retrieved February 20, 2011.
  2. ^ Janssen, M. A. (2012). "Elinor Ostrom (1933–2012)". Nature. 487 (7406): 172. doi:10.1038/487172a. PMID 22785305.
  3. ^ Wilson, R. K. (2012). "Elinor Ostrom (1933–2012)". Science. 337 (6095): 661–61. doi:10.1126/science.1227725. PMID 22879496.
  4. ^ Aligica, Paul Dragos; Boettke, Peter (2010). "Ostrom, Elinor". The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics (Online ed.).
  5. ^ "Nobel Prize Awarded Women". Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  6. ^ "Elinor Ostrom building for Nijmegen School of Management". Radboud University (in Dutch). Retrieved 2018-02-03.
  7. ^ "Researcher for Virginia Tech program wins Nobel Prize". Virginia Tech. Retrieved January 2, 2011.
  8. ^ "Transnational Corporations Review".
  9. ^ a b c d e Leonard, Mike (6 December 2009). "Nobel winner Elinor Ostrom is a gregarious teacher who loves to solve problems". The Herald-Times. Bloomington, Indiana. Archived from the original on April 15, 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  10. ^ a b "Elinor Ostrom". The Telegraph. London. 13 June 2012. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  11. ^ a b c d Wall, Derek (2014). The Sustainable Economics of Elinor Ostrom: Commons, Contestation and Craft. Routledge.
  12. ^ "The story of non-economist Elinor Ostrom". The Swedish Wire. December 9, 2009. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
  13. ^ "Elinor Ostrom". The Economist. 30 June 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g "Elinor Ostrom - Biographical". www.nobelprize.org. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  15. ^ a b c d Vlad, Tarko (2017). Elinor Ostrom : an intellectual biography. London. ISBN 9781783485888. OCLC 965120114.
  16. ^ a b McKay, Bonnie J.; Bennett, Joan (2014). Biographical Memoir of Elinor Ostrom (1933–2012) (PDF). National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  17. ^ Harford, Tim (30 August 2013). "Do You Believe in Sharing?". Financial Times. Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  18. ^ Elinor Ostrom. https://www.ubs.com/microsites/nobel-perspectives/en/elinor-ostrom.html in UBS Nobel Perspectives interview, 2009.
  19. ^ Woo, Elaine (13 June 2012). "Elinor Ostrom dies at 78; first woman to win Nobel in economics". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  20. ^ a b Zagorski, Nick (2006). "Profile of Elinor Ostrom". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 103 (51): 19221–23. doi:10.1073/pnas.0609919103. PMC 1748208. PMID 17164324.
  21. ^ "Elinor Ostrom". The Economist. 2012-06-30. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  22. ^ "The Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis". Indiana.edu. Archived from the original on October 7, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2009.
  23. ^ Mitchell, W. C. (1988). "Virginia, Rochester, and Bloomington: Twenty-five years of public choice and political science". Public Choice. 56 (2): 101–19. doi:10.1007/BF00115751.
  24. ^ a b Arrow, Kenneth J.; Keohane, Robert O.; Levin, Simon A. (2012-08-14). "Elinor Ostrom: An uncommon woman for the commons". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 109 (33): 13135–13136. doi:10.1073/pnas.1210827109. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 3421197.
  25. ^ "Ostrom Facts", Nobel Prize.org
  26. ^ "Elinor Ostrom - Facts". www.nobelprize.org. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  27. ^ "Elinor Ostrom, 2009 Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences: Indiana University". www.elinorostrom.com. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  28. ^ "Polycentricity and Local Public Economies". Archived from the original on April 3, 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
  29. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 2, 2012. Retrieved February 8, 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  30. ^ "Beyond the tragedy of the commons". Stockholm Whiteboard Seminars. 2009-04-03. Retrieved 2013-03-23.
  31. ^ Ostrom, Elinor (1990). Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-40599-7.
  32. ^ Big Think (2012-04-23), Ending The Tragedy of The Commons, retrieved 2018-03-25
  33. ^ Poteete, Janssen; Elinor Ostrom (2010). Working Together: Collective Action, the Commons, and Multiple Methods in Practice. Princeton University Press.
  34. ^ Ostrom, E. (2009). "A General Framework for Analyzing Sustainability of Social-Ecological Systems". Science. 325 (5939): 419–22. doi:10.1126/science.1172133. PMID 19628857.
  35. ^ Vedeld, Trond. 2010, February 12. "A New Global Game – And How Best to Play It," Archived June 24, 2016, at the Wayback Machine The NIBR International Blog.
  36. ^ Fennell, Lee Anne (Mar 2011). "Ostrom's Law: Property rights in the commons". International Journal of the Commons. 5 (1): 9–27. doi:10.18352/ijc.252. ISSN 1875-0281. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  37. ^ "The Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science – Prize Winners". Archived from the original on March 14, 2012.
  38. ^ "Frank E. Seidman Award: Acceptance Paper". Archived from the original on February 12, 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
  39. ^ "John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on December 29, 2010. Retrieved February 25, 2011.
  40. ^ "Elinor Ostrom: The Commoner". Utne Reader. Retrieved October 19, 2010.
  41. ^ "Honorary doctors at NTNU". Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
  42. ^ "A Candle for the Dismal Science". The Attic. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  43. ^ "First woman wins economics Nobel". BBC News. 12 October 2009. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  44. ^ Arrow, Kenneth; Keohane, Robert O.; Levin, Simon A. (2012). "Elinor Ostrom: An Uncommon Woman for The Commons". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 109 (33): 13135–36. doi:10.1073/pnas.1210827109. PMC 3421197.
  45. ^ Rampell, Catherine (13 June 2012). "Elinor Ostrom, Winner of Nobel in Economics, Dies at 78". New York Times. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  46. ^ Daniel Cole (June 13, 2012). "obituary". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2013-03-23.
  47. ^ Stokes, Kyle (13 June 2012). "How IU Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom Changed the World". StateImpact. Indiana Public Media. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  48. ^ "Elinor Ostrom, 2009 Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences: Indiana University". www.elinorostrom.com. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  49. ^ Jessop, Bob. "Introduction to Elinor Ostrom" (PDF). Beyond Ostrom. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  50. ^ Ostrom, Elinor (2012-06-12). "Green from the Grassroots". Project Syndicate.
  51. ^ "Elinor Ostrom, Only Female Nobel Laureate in Economics, Dies". Wall Street Journal. 12 June 2012.
  52. ^ "Distinguished Indiana University scholar Vincent Ostrom dies: IU News Room: Indiana University". newsinfo.iu.edu. Retrieved 2018-03-03.

Further reading

External links

Preceded by
Paul Krugman
Laureate of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics
Served alongside: Oliver E. Williamson
Succeeded by
Peter A. Diamond
Dale T. Mortensen
Christopher A. Pissarides
Bonnie McCay

Bonnie McCay (born 6 October 1941) is an anthropologist and Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor Emerita at Rutgers University. Her research has focused on the anthropological and social aspects of common property theory, with particular emphasis on fisheries management and human–environment relations in marine areas. Her critique of the concept of tragedy of the commons predates the more well-known work by Elinor Ostrom.McCay studied at Valparaiso University from 1959 to 1960 and at the University of California, Berkeley from 1960 to 1962 before completing a B.A. in anthropology at Portland State University in 1969.

She then went to Columbia University for her graduate studies, completing her Ph.D. in 1976 under the supervision of Andrew P. Vayda, who in the meantime had moved from Columbia to Rutgers. She joined Vayda on the Rutgers faculty in 1974, first as an instructor at Cook College, and then beginning in 1975 as a tenure-track faculty member.She became a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1990 and of the Society for Applied Anthropology in 1996.

In 2012 she was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences.

Center for Interdisciplinary Research, Bielefeld

The Center for Interdisciplinary Research (German: Zentrum für interdisziplinäre Forschung (ZiF)) is the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany. Founded in 1968, it was the first IAS in Germany and became a model for numerous similar institutes in Europe. The ZiF promotes and provides premises for interdisciplinary and international research groups. Scholars from all countries and all disciplines can carry out interdisciplinary research projects ranging from one-year research groups to short workshops. In the last 40 years numerous renowned researchers lived and worked at ZiF, among them the social scientist Norbert Elias and Nobel Laureates Reinhard Selten, John Charles Harsanyi, Roger B. Myerson and Elinor Ostrom.

Clark Gibson

Clark C. Gibson (born June 23, 1961 in Fontana California) is an American political scientist, best known for his work on African politics, elections in emerging democracies, and environmental politics. Gibson is currently a professor at the University of California, San Diego, where he previously served as chairman of the Department of Political Science. He has consulted for The World Bank, The United Nations, the Carter Center, the United States Agency for International Development, the National Democratic Institute, and the International Republican Institute. Gibson has done influential work on electoral fraud.Gibson graduated with a bachelor's degree from the University of Notre Dame, then joined the Peace Corps, serving in Nepal. Gibson left Nepal for medical reasons, subsequently working as a paralegal and high school teacher before beginning graduate study in political science at Duke University. While working on his doctoral dissertation, Gibson conducted field work in Zambia, Africa where he studied wildlife politics and poaching in national parks. While in Zambia, Gibson encountered a group of election observers led by Jimmy Carter and became involved in work on election monitoring and electoral fraud, eventually leading to Gibson's work in a variety of countries. Gibson received his Ph.D. from Duke, then held several positions at Indiana University. While at I.U., he worked on common pool resources with political economist Elinor Ostrom PhD at her Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. Ostrom subsequently won the Nobel Prize in Economics with Oliver E. Williamson for her "analysis of economic governance, especially the commons". In 2001, Gibson joined the Department of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego as a tenured faculty member.

Gibson's academic work has mainly concentrated on issues and countries in Africa. He has undertaken extensive studies on the subjects of foreign aid and political accountability. Most recently, he has worked on using technology, specifically cellphones, to minimize electoral fraud in Afghanistan, Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa. Gibson's work, coauthored with Karen Ferree and James Long, helped to point to discrepancies in the controversial results of 2007 Kenyan elections. Gibson conducted an extensive exit poll in the election on behalf of the International Republican Institute and USAID. After the election poll's results were made available by Gibson, Feree, and Long, the results became subject to controversy due to the International Republican Institute's delay in releasing the poll results. The delay and its impact on public perceptions on the validity of the elections received international press.


The commons is the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. Commons can also be understood as natural resources that groups of people (communities, user groups) manage for individual and collective benefit. Characteristically, this involves a variety of informal norms and values (social practice) employed for a governance mechanism.

Commons can be also defined as a social practice of governing a resource not by state or market but by a community of users that self-governs the resource through institutions that it creates .

Field research

Field research, field studies, or fieldwork is the collection of raw data outside a laboratory, library, or workplace setting. The approaches and methods used in field research vary across disciplines. For example, biologists who conduct field research may simply observe animals interacting with their environments, whereas social scientists conducting field research may interview or observe people in their natural environments to learn their languages, folklore, and social structures.

Field research involves a range of well-defined, although variable, methods: informal interviews, direct observation, participation in the life of the group, collective discussions, analyses of personal documents produced within the group, self-analysis, results from activities undertaken off- or on-line, and life-histories. Although the method generally is characterized as qualitative research, it may (and often does) include quantitative dimensions.


A huerta (Spanish: [ˈweɾta]) or horta (Valencian: [ˈɔɾta], Portuguese: [ˈɔɾtɐ]), from Latin hortus, "garden", is a fertile area, or a field within a fertile area, common in Spain and Portugal, where a variety of common vegetables and fruit trees are cultivated for family consumption and sale. Typically, huertas belong to different people, huertas are also located in groups, or around rivers or other water sources because of the amount of irrigation required. It is a kind of market garden.

Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs

The Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) is one of the undergraduate and graduate schools of Indiana University, and is the largest public policy and environmental studies school of its kind in the United States. Founded in 1972, it was the first school to combine public management, policy, and administration with the environmental sciences. SPEA was founded on the IU Bloomington campus, and today also has a campus at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). SPEA Bloomington is the top ranked school of public affairs in the United States. SPEA received a facelift and expansion when the Paul O'Neill Graduate Center opened for classes in the Spring 2017 semester due to the growing influx of students.

Institutional analysis and development framework

The Institutional Analysis and Development framework (IAD) was developed by Elinor Ostrom, an American political scientist, also known as the first woman to receive the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2009. The IAD relates a set of concepts to help in the analysis of collective action problems that involve social structures, positions, and rules. Under the rational choice models, the IAD was devised in an attempt to explain and predict outcomes by formalising the structures, positions, and rules involved in collective choice problems. Thus, it can be seen as a systematic method to collect policy analysis functions similar to analytic technique commonly used in physical and social sciences and understand how institutions operate and change over a period of time.

Institutional economics

Institutional economics focuses on understanding the role of the evolutionary process and the role of institutions in shaping economic behaviour. Its original focus lay in Thorstein Veblen's instinct-oriented dichotomy between technology on the one side and the "ceremonial" sphere of society on the other. Its name and core elements trace back to a 1919 American Economic Review article by Walton H. Hamilton. Institutional economics emphasizes a broader study of institutions and views markets as a result of the complex interaction of these various institutions (e.g. individuals, firms, states, social norms). The earlier tradition continues today as a leading heterodox approach to economics."Traditional" institutionalism rejects the reduction of institutions to simply tastes, technology, and nature (see naturalistic fallacy). Tastes, along with expectations of the future, habits, and motivations, not only determine the nature of institutions but are limited and shaped by them. If people live and work in institutions on a regular basis, it shapes their world views. Fundamentally, this traditional institutionalism (and its modern counterpart institutionalist political economy) emphasizes the legal foundations of an economy (see John R. Commons) and the evolutionary, habituated, and volitional processes by which institutions are erected and then changed (see John Dewey, Thorstein Veblen, and Daniel Bromley.) Institutional economics focuses on learning, bounded rationality, and evolution (rather than assuming stable preferences, rationality and equilibrium). It was a central part of American economics in the first part of the 20th century, including such famous but diverse economists as Thorstein Veblen, Wesley Mitchell, and John R. Commons. Some institutionalists see Karl Marx as belonging to the institutionalist tradition, because he described capitalism as a historically-bounded social system; other institutionalist economists disagree with Marx's definition of capitalism, instead seeing defining features such as markets, money and the private ownership of production as indeed evolving over time, but as a result of the purposive actions of individuals.

A significant variant is the new institutional economics from the later 20th century, which integrates later developments of neoclassical economics into the analysis. Law and economics has been a major theme since the publication of the Legal Foundations of Capitalism by John R. Commons in 1924. Since then, there has been heated debate on the role of law (a formal institution) on economic growth. Behavioral economics is another hallmark of institutional economics based on what is known about psychology and cognitive science, rather than simple assumptions of economic behavior.

Some of the authors associated with this school include Robert H. Frank, Warren Samuels, Marc Tool, Geoffrey Hodgson, Daniel Bromley, Jonathan Nitzan, Shimshon Bichler, Elinor Ostrom, Anne Mayhew, John Kenneth Galbraith and Gunnar Myrdal, but even the sociologist C. Wright Mills was highly influenced by the institutionalist approach in his major studies.

International Forestry Resources and Institutions

The International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI) Network is a collective of research partners at 12 universities or non-governmental organizations in 11 countries around the world that focus on how institutions and governance arrangements shape forest use and management outcomes. Scholars and policy makers affiliated with IFRI are interested in understanding the role of formal and informal institutions in enhancing livelihoods and adaptive capacity of peoples, conserving biodiversity, and promoting greater sustainability in carbon sequestration. IFRI's goal is to carry out rigorous research that can help policy makers and forest users design and implement improved evidence-based forest policies. IFRI comprises partner collaborating research institutes in North America, Latin America, Asia and Africa. IFRI utilizes the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework, created at the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University by Elinor Ostrom and her colleagues.

The IFRI research program was initiated in 1992 at Indiana University. It moved in 2006 to University of Michigan where it is currently housed at the School of Natural Resources and Environment and coordinated by Arun Agrawal.

Jason Potts

Jason Potts is a New Zealand-born academic economist. His work focuses on the theoretical development of evolutionary economics using complex systems theory. His current research is on the role of creative industries in innovation-driven economic growth and development. He is also a leading researcher on the economics of blockchains and is currently the Director of the Blockchain Innovation Hub, housed at RMIT University. Building on the work of Elinor Ostrom, Potts has developed the concept of the innovation commons. Potts received his B.Com (Hons, Economics) from the University of Otago, NZ, (1993), and his PhD (Economics), from Lincoln University, New Zealand (1999). His highest cited work is his book, The New Evolutionary Microeconomics, at over 700 times, according to Google Scholar.

John Baden

John A. Baden is founder and chairman of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE) based in Bozeman, Montana.

In 1977 Baden co-authored Managing the Commons with Garrett Hardin, the author of the essay "The Tragedy of the Commons". The book, which is currently out of print, is a collection of articles exploring the themes raised in Hardin's original essay.

Lee J. Alston

Lee J. Alston (born March 29, 1951) is the Ostrom Chair, Professor of Economics and Law, and Director of the Ostrom Workshop at Indiana University. He is also a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. On August 6, 2014, Alston was appointed director of the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University, Bloomington, from which he received his B.A. in 1973.

His research has focused on institutions and contracts and their role in influencing rural land use in the US and Brazil.

In 2012 Alston was awarded a Clio Can award by the Cliometric Society for Exceptional Support to the Field of Cliometrics.

List of female Nobel laureates

As of 2018, Nobel Prizes have been awarded to 853 men, 51 women (Marie Curie won it twice), and 24 unique organizations.The distribution of female Nobel Laureates is as follows:

seventeen women have won the Nobel Peace Prize,

fourteen have won the Nobel Prize in Literature,

twelve have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine,

five have won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry,

three have won the Nobel Prize in Physics,

and one, Elinor Ostrom, has won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.The first woman to win a Nobel Prize was Marie Curie, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 with her husband, Pierre Curie, and Henri Becquerel. Curie is also the only woman to have won multiple Nobel Prizes; in 1911, she won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Curie's daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935, making the two the only mother-daughter pair to have won Nobel Prizes.The most Nobel Prizes awarded to women in a single year was in 2009, when five women became laureates in four categories.

The most recent women to be awarded a Nobel Prize were Donna Strickland in Physics, Frances Arnold in Chemistry, and Nadia Murad for Peace (2018).

New institutional economics

New institutional economics (NIE) is an economic perspective that attempts to extend economics by focusing on the social and legal norms and rules (which are institutions) that underlie economic activity and with analysis beyond earlier institutional economics and neoclassical economics. It can be seen as a broadening step to include aspects excluded in neoclassical economics. It rediscovers aspects of classical political economy.

Oliver E. Williamson

Oliver Eaton Williamson (born September 27, 1932) is an American economist, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and recipient of the 2009 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, which he shared with Elinor Ostrom.


Ostrom or Öström is a Swedish surname meaning "island stream". Notable people with the surname include:

Elinor Ostrom (1933–2012), American political economist

Ellen Ostrom, dancer in the New York City Ballet's corps de ballet

Gilbert Wellington Ostrom (1837–1917), Ontario lawyer and political figure

Hans Ostrom (born 1954), American professor, writer, editor, and scholar

John Ostrom (1928–2005), American paleontologist

Magnus Öström, drummer for the Esbjörn Svensson Trio

Meredith Ostrom (born 1977), American actress, model, and painter

Tom Ostrom (1936–1994), American psychologist

Vincent Ostrom (1919–2012), American political scientist

Walter Ostrom, ceramic artist

Tragedy of the commons

The tragedy of the commons is a term used in social science to describe a situation in a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting or spoiling that resource through their collective action. The concept and phrase originated in an essay written in 1833 by the British economist William Forster Lloyd, who used a hypothetical example of the effects of unregulated grazing on common land (also known as a "common") in Great Britain and Ireland. The concept became widely known over a century later due to an article written by the American ecologist and philosopher Garrett Hardin in 1968. In this modern economic context, commons is taken to mean any shared and unregulated resource such as atmosphere, oceans, rivers, fish stocks, or even an office refrigerator.

It has been argued that the very term 'tragedy of the Commons' is a misnomer, since 'the commons' referred to land resources with rights jointly owned by members of a community, and no individual outside the community had any access to the resource. However, the term is now used in social science and economics when describing a problem where all individuals have equal and open access to a resource. Hence, 'tragedy of open access regimes' or simply 'the open access problem' are more apt terms.The 'tragedy of the commons' is often cited in connection with sustainable development, meshing economic growth and environmental protection, as well as in the debate over global warming. It has also been used in analyzing behavior in the fields of economics, evolutionary psychology, anthropology, game theory, politics, taxation and sociology.

Although common resource systems have been known to collapse due to overuse (such as in over-fishing), many examples have existed and still do exist where members of a community with access to a common resource co-operate or regulate to exploit those resources prudently without collapse. Elinor Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for demonstrating exactly this concept in her book Governing the Commons, which included examples of how local communities were able to do this without top-down regulations.

Vincent Ostrom

Vincent Alfred Ostrom (September 25, 1919 – June 29, 2012) was an American political economist and the Founding Director of the Ostrom Workshop based at Indiana University and the Arthur F. Bentley Professor Emeritus of Political Science. He and his wife, the economist Elinor Ostrom, made numerous contributions to the field of political science, political economy, and public choice.

The Ostroms made particular study of fragmentation theory, rational choice theory, federalism, common-pool resources and polycentrism in government. The Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization published a special issue, "Polycentric Political Economy: A Festschrift for Elinor and Vincent Ostrom", as the proceedings of a 2003 conference held in their honor, at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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