Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom leaves legacy to celebrate at a time of attacks on the value of her discipline

(posted earlier on

Last week we heard the sad news that Professor Elinor Ostrom has died. Her profound contributions to scholarship have been told often enough (Elinor Ostrom’s obituary) since she became the first woman and the first political scientist ever to receive the Nobel Prize for Economics.

Lin was a friend of SAGE in general, and of Sara our founder in particular, since she first published books with us over 35 years ago (such as Strategies of Political Inquiry in 1982) and later co-founded our Journal of Theoretical Politics, (the first journal I ever worked on when I joined SAGE in 1989). The journal has for the last year instituted an Elinor Ostrom Prize which was won last year by John Wright.

Professor Keith Dowding one of our recent Journal of Theoretical Politics editors had this to say:

“Lin was an inspiration to all who met her.  As a founding editor she was largely responsible for developing the reputation of the Journal of Theoretical Politics as a major political science journal.  She continued to support the journal as a board member thereafter.  In recognition of her importance to the journal we named the annual prize for best article in her honour.  She was incredibly generous to my doctoral students when she came to London as plenary speaker at the PSA 50th Anniversary conference spending a lot of her time talking to them about their work.  She will be sadly missed.”

There is something particularly poignant about the timing of Lin Ostrom’s death, particularly when we consider the ‘Flaky’ assault on NSF funding for Political Science Research that has recently passed the House of Representatives. For it was in late 2009 (around the time the Nobel Prize was awarded) that we saw a previous attempt at similar, and happily unsuccessful, intellectual vandalism then proposed by Senator Tom Coburn. The irony was that some of the work which led to Professor Ostrom’s prize was funded by just the kind of grants Sen Coburn was seeking to ban. (I mentioned this paradox in an article at the time – The self-confidence crisis in social research)

We at SAGE are doing what we can to resist this move in particular and to celebrate the social sciences more generally at a time when confusion and ignorance about social science research are rife. The ‘letter to your Senator’ signed by our CEO Blaise Simqu is one example. More generally Socialsciencespace, Social Science Bites, SAGE Open, our work with learned societies and major social science umbrella bodies such as the AcSS, the British Academy, CASBS the AAS and FABBS as well as a slew of workshops and public lectures we hope will do something to reverse this trend, and to honour the work of Professor Ostrom’s and countless social scientists around the world.

Ziyad Marar

Global Publishing Director, SAGE

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