Research News

NSF grants for Sociology, Earth and Environmental Sciences

The NSF has awarded a pair of grants to Vanderbilt researchers for the study of local water conservation policies across the nation and the role of litigation in social activism, respectively.

Understanding water conservation in the United States

Hornberger portrait
George Hornberger (Jenny Mandeville / Vanderbilt)

Principal investigator George Hornberger, University Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth and Environmental Science, along with David Hess, the James Thornton Fant Professor of Sustainability Studies and professor of sociology, and Jonathan Gilligan, associate professor of Earth and environmental science, will lead a three-year project to develop a comprehensive database of water supply systems and water conservation policies of every metropolitan area in the United States.

This database will be the first of its kind and analyzing it will allow the researchers to discover patterns in conservation policies. The team will use it to investigate connections between the physical state of the water supply, the public and private organizations that manage the water supply system and the public’s willingness and ability to cooperate in conserving water. This project is unique in integrating social science with hydrology and environmental science to simultaneously study the water supply and the social and political conditions in which it operates. The results of this project will be useful to water supply managers, public officials, communities, and advocates of conservation.

The role of litigation in social movements

Holly McCammon portrait
Holly McCammon (Anne Rayner / Vanderbilt)

Holly McCammon, professor of sociology, has received a two-year grant from the National Science Foundation to study the federal litigation strategies of feminist groups and examine whether those strategies are effective in winning cases and shaping public policy.

By mining the feminist movement’s rich history of litigation, McCammon and her team will produce case studies of key feminist litigation advocacy groups and develop a data set of federal court cases related to gender-based legal issues. They will then be able to analyze those data and assess the impact of litigation strategy on case outcomes.

Although social scientists have devoted significant attention to the rise (and fall) of social movements, very little of that research has examined the role litigation plays in those movements’ attempts to advance their causes. McCammon’s research will shed new light on how social movement groups use litigation as a tool to advance their goals and provide a better understanding of strategic activism.