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A brief overview of my research trajectory and future plans

Every scholar is required at some point to lay out a research plan and to showcase their research agenda. Given the broad variety of topics and issue areas that I have worked on (call it intellectual curiosity), I sometimes struggle to answer the kind of questions that for other scholars may sound easy. I sometimes read my colleagues’ websites and I find it amazing that they can articulate what their research interests are in such a brief, concise way. So this blog post (a work in progress) aims to articulate my research trajectory to date.

My research is motivated by a keen interest in cooperation amongst agents. Why do people cooperate to manage common pool resources (CPR) and can we look at a wasted resource (wastewater) through the lenses of CPR theories? What drives firms to co-locate in the same geographical region even when they are potential competitors and how do clusters of allied (coupled/interconnected) industries respond to a multiplicity of stressors? What strategies do environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) use to put pressure on governments to reduce their pollutant emissions and what are the underlying reasons why these ENGOs build transnational coalitions? Under what circumstances do business use cooperative approaches to pollution control?

My research explores questions of multilevel and networked governance through cooperative approaches. Using a multidisciplinary analytical approach that borrows from the sociological, urban studies, planning, anthropological and policy sciences’ literatures, I examine case studies from the environmental field (specifically water, solid waste and hazardous/toxic waste), thus exploring new models of governing.

At the very core, my research (and teaching) are driven by a keen interest in narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor, in reducing overall poverty worldwide. I use my understanding of cross-national comparative public policy (and in particular my work in environmental policy) to provide research outputs that policy makers at the global (intergovernmental secretariats) and local (federal, provincial, regional and municipal) scale can use to improve human welfare.

My empirical research has found, amongst other things, that:

  • River basin councils have proven innovative institutional reforms to govern water, yet they are ineffective in improving wastewater management at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.
  • Environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) can successfully use coalition-building strategies to effectively put pressure on national governments to improve their pollution-control performance policy under specific circumstances that include campaigning for issues that have a direct effect on human health.
  • Small cities with mono-industry structures will engage in countervailing strategies if faced with multiple stressors, whereas cities where there is potential for industrial diversification will broaden their repertoire of industries.


7 years ago I decided to refocus my research to examining water through the social sciences lenses. I find it really hard to let go of the field of environmental economic geography and I am still interested in issues of industrial restructuring. Finally I am working again in the field of solid waste management, specifically looking at the politics of garbage. Much of my field research has been in Mexico.

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5 Responses

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  1. JoVE says

    That is a great description. The thing about cooperation between agents connects what otherwise might look like a very diverse research agenda into something much more coherent. You have particular empirical interests right now (water, especially) but you have successfully identified the core that would remain even if that particular focus qhanged.

  2. Dave Macdonald says

    Awesome, Raul.

    As I read this, it boils down to the study of relationships in a way that no one else, or very few people, have the capacity to do. It’s not work that everyone gets because it’s so inter-disciplinary, but those that get it appreciate it.

Continuing the Discussion

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    […] research assistant conduct, etc.) This reflective process has been extremely helpful to refine my research interests and trajectory statement as […]

  2. Maturing as a scholar, long-term thinking and the research trajectory – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD linked to this post on February 2, 2013

    […] I was asked on Twitter about what I meant by a research trajectory (I discussed my research interests and the plans I had for my future investigations in a previous blog post). For context, I have been thinking about maturing as a scholar and […]

  3. On the natural evolution of my thinking and research trajectory – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD linked to this post on May 17, 2013

    […] years ago (2011), I narrowed down the analytical core of my research agenda: I’m someone who uses questions of how can agents cooperate for appropriate resource […]

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