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Shiran Shen

Shiran Shen

Ph.D. Candidate


Shiran Shen is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Stanford University, and she received an M.S. in Civil & Environmental Engineering from Stanford University and a B.A. in Political Science and Environmental Studies from Swarthmore College. Shiran seeks to integrate relevant techniques from engineering fields, earth systems, and computer science to better understand the big and small questions in the social sciences, especially in the realm of environment and energy. Her research explores when, where, and how incentives and constraints shape environmental behavior, both at the macro-political and micro-individual levels across institutional, regional, and cultural contexts.

Shiran's book-style dissertation theorizes and illuminates a critical, new dimension along which environmental policy implementation is a function of politics: local political tenure cycles. Shiran extends the political business cycle approach to delve into how career incentives of local political leaders influence their prioritization of multiple – some of which are complementary while others contradictory – policy targets and implementation. Using remote sensing, observational data, and qualitative fieldwork, Shiran finds that political tenures of prefectural leaders in China during 2000 – 2010 foster what she calls a “political pollution cycle,” where economic activities are strategically timed so that the delivery of economic achievements bodes well for the career advancement of local political leaders, but at the same time contributing unintentionally to air pollution at considerable human costs. She scrutinizes various measures to break such cycles across China and tests the external validity of her theory with evidence from the United States and Mexico using textual analysis and other techniques.

Shiran's works have appeared in Journal of Cleaner Production (ranked no.1 journal in the category of sustainable development by Google Scholar), and have won best paper/essay awards from American Political Science Association and Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. Her research has been very generously funded by Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford China Center, Stanford Center for International Development, School of Humanities and Sciences, and Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University, as well as by the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy.

Shiran has served as a head teaching assistant for "The American West" and "Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law" and the sole teaching assistant for "Chinese Politics: Transformation and the Era of Reform."

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