Harvard-UAI Funded Projects

CrowdLaw Research at the Chilean Congress

CrowdLaw Research at the Chilean Congress is a two-year project that aims to design and run field experiments at different stages of the lawmaking process in collaboration with the Bi-Chamber Commission of Transparency of the Chilean Congress- a parliamentarian commission dedicated to promoting transparency and engagement of citizens to involve the public at various stages of law and policy making cycles, from agenda setting to evaluation.

With rates of trust in public institutions at very low levels, the legitimacy and effectiveness of traditional representative methods of decision-making, often dominated by political party agendas and done behind closed doors, are called into question. For this, disruptive technology must be used. A term coined by Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen in his 1997 best-selling book, a disruptive technology is one that displaces an established technology and shakes up the industry or a ground-breaking product that creates a completely new industry.

Disruptive technologies offer the promise of improving the ways in which public institutions tackle social problems and generate public value by connecting them to diverse forms of expertise and know-how. Around the world, there are already hundreds of examples of public institutions in all branches of government increasing their presence and accountability online, to involve the public at various stages of law and policy-making cycles, sometimes from agenda setting to evaluation.

In the second phase, the team plans to build on the results obtained in the first phase, to design and run field experiments at gatherings of the Chilean Congress at different stages of the lawmaking process to:

  • deepen understanding of the demand for, use and impact of collective intelligence in governing

  • provide evidence for the premise that collective intelligence has the potential to improve the workings of public institutions

  • deepen shared understanding of what works and why

  • provide actionable insights to policymakers, civil society representatives, entrepreneurs, researchers and others interested in collective intelligence processes, platforms, and policies in an easily digestible and persuasive format

To do this, the team reached an agreement of collaboration with the Bi-Chamber Commission of Transparency of the Chilean Congress- a parliamentarian commission dedicated to promote transparency and engagement of citizens. The Commission leads the “Chilean Open Parliament Commitments”. They were able to access the Virtual Senator platform to run and monitor these experiments and we then evaluated the obtained results.

Participating Harvard Faculty: Archon Fung, Winthrop Laflin McCormack, Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government; and Victoria Alsina Burgues, Democracy Fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation

Collaborating Faculty: Luis E. Santana, School of Communications & Journalism, Universidad Adolfo Ibañez

Dark Matter and the shape of Galaxies-II

Dark Matter and the shape of Galaxies-II, a project begun in 2017, investigates the precise shape of galaxies in relation to the dark matter distribution in which they are enveloped. Dark matter is a completely mysterious source of gravitational interactions which permeates the universe. It isn’t composed of ordinary matter, but rather of some exotic particle content which only interacts with “ordinary” matter through gravity.

This proposal is a continuation of previously awarded 2017 and 2018 Harvard–UAI collaborative research grants, under the supervision of Professor Lisa Randall (Harvard) and Professor Gianni Tallarita (UAI). During Professor Tallarita’s two visits to the Theory group at Harvard University, a long-term and deeply motivated research project was begun, involving the precise shape of galaxies in relation to the dark matter distribution in which they are enveloped. The problem is the following: Dark matter is a completely mysterious source of gravitational interactions which permeates the universe. As far as we know, it isn’t composed of ordinary matter, but rather of some exotic particle content which only interacts with “ordinary” matter via gravity. Galaxies, and indeed the universe in general, are shaped by how this “ordinary” matter that we can observe, interacts with the more “exotic” dark matter. Since, we can indeed observe the shape of ordinary galaxies directly, through terrestrial or space telescopes, the question remaining is whether observation of the galactical shape can tell us something about how the dark matter must be distributed close to the galaxy? Further, if we consider the gravitational back-reaction of the ordinary galaxy on the dark matter distribution, can we learn something new about how this exotic matter interacts with ordinary matter?

These extremely important questions lend themselves best to numerical analyses. Professor Tallarita has devoted most of his career to numerical simulations and coding in Mathematics, implementing Newton-Rhapson, direct finite differences or pseudo-spectral solving methods especially for the resolution of partial differential equations, and for which he is considered an expert. Similarly, Professor Randall has world-renowned expertise in theoretical physics. During Professor Tallarita’s visits, the team was able to apply his expertise along with that of Professor Randall's to this project. Furthermore, Professor Randall’s Phd student, Linda Xu, has been actively involved in the project, and collaboration with her has been tremendously fruitful. On the same lines, the 2018 project led Professor Tallarita to visit Harvard in April 2019 to continue the collaboration. The team further developed the theory of galaxy shapes through dark matter compositions and ran further numerical simulations on disk galaxies.

Participating Harvard Faculty: Lisa Randall, Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science

Collaborating Faculty: Gianni Tallarita, Facultad De Artes Liberales, Departamento de Ciencias, Universidad Adolfo Ibañez

Plant-insect interactions in the Atacama Desert

Phenological synchrony and symbioses: assessing climate change impacts on plant-insect interactions in the Atacama Desert of Chile is a collaborative proposal that aims to characterize phenological mismatch among plants and insects due to global climate change. The study is focused on plant-insect interactions in the Atacama Desert of Chile. This Harvard-UAI collaborative investigation plans to use an invaluable collection of multispecies community-phenological data collected over 30-years from a Long-Term Ecological Research station in Chile.

There is strong evidence from all continents that ecosystems have been adversely affected by regional and global climate change, particularly by increasing temperatures. Numerous studies have demonstrated dramatic shifts in species' phenology – the timing of life-cycle events of plants and animals – because temperature is an essential signal for the development of many species. Climate change may disrupt phenological synchrony when interacting species exhibit different sensitivities to environmental cues leading to negative consequences of both mutualistic (plants and pollinators or seed dispersers) and antagonistic (plant and herbivores) ecological interactions. Yet, there are relatively few compelling examples of such phenological mismatches, which results largely from a lack of data to address this question. This collaborative proposal seeks funding to break this impasse by using an invaluable collection of multispecies community phenological data collected over 30-years from a Long-Term Ecological Research station in Chile. Here, this project seeks to characterize phenological mismatch among plants and insects to evaluate future changes to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in this iconic Mediterranean region of the world.

Participating Harvard Faculty: Charles C. Davis, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology; Curator of Vascular Plants in the Harvard University Herbaria and Director, Harvard University Herbaria

Collaborating Faculty: Karin Maldonado P., Departamento de Ciencias, Facultad de Artes Liberales, Universidad Adolfo Ibañez

Plant Water Relations in the Fog Oases

Chile is known for its unique geography populated by equally unique plant and animal species. Plant Water Relations in the Fog Oases of Chile aims to analyze the water relations of the Olivillo tree, endemic to Chile and Argentina, to uncover its unique structural and physiological features. Results will contribute to land management and forest conservation planning by enhancing predictions of climate change impacts on the biodiversity and future survival of Chile’s fog oases.

Chile is known for its unique geography populated by equally unique plant and animal species. One such species is the Olivillo tree (Aextoxicon punctatum), the only member of the family Aextoxicaceae and which is endemic to Chile and Argentina. The Olivillo tree is thought to be the keystone species responsible for the survival of isolated micro-rainforests known as fog oases in the otherwise desolate Norte Chico of Chile. The goal of this project is to analyze the water relations of the Olivillo tree to uncover the unique structural and physiological features that allow these trees to capture the large amount of water required for the maintenance of fog oases. This goal will be addressed with field work in the fog oasis of Cerro Santa Inés (Region IV) and with laboratory experiments performed in Chile and the United-States. A fog tunnel available at Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez will be used to obtain the first direct measurement of the rate of fog collection by individual Olivillo leaves. Harvard's complementary expertise in sap flow measurements will help quantify foliar uptake of fog water to estimate how well fog interception contributes to the water balance of these micro-rainforests. These questions are of fundamental and practical importance as climate change is predicted to decrease the frequency and intensity of coastal fog events. This work will contribute to land management and forest conservation planning by enhancing predictions of climate change impacts on the biodiversity and future survival of Chile’s fog oases.

Participating Harvard Faculty: Noel Michele Holbrook, Charles Bullard Professor of Forestry; Professor of Biology

Collaborating Faculty: Jacques Dumais, Facultad de Ingeniería y Ciencias, Universidad Adolfo Ibañez

Superstring field theory in the pure spinor formalism

Superstring field theory in the pure spinor formalism is related to theoretical physics. It studies the pure spinor string in non-trivial space-time backgrounds, in particular their quantum regime. The covariant quantization of the superstring using the pure spinor formalism can be useful to understand some issues of the string field theory introduced by scientist Ashoke Sen.

This project, related to theoretical physics, addresses in particular the topic of string theory. Of particular interest is the covariant quantization of the superstring using the so-called pure spinor formalism. The team proposes to study the pure spinor string in non-trivial space-time backgrounds, in particular, in their quantum regime. In this way, the team can gain a better understanding of the pure spinor string. Other line of research is the reformulation of superstring field theory in the pure spinor form which can be useful to understand some issues of the string field theory introduced by Asoke Sen. Here the project aims to study the dynamics of strings in Ramond-Ramond backgrounds where the pure spinor formalism may be more efficient compared to other formalisms.

Participating Harvard Faculty: Xi Yin, Professor of Physics

Collaborating Faculty: Osvaldo Chandia, Ciencias, Facultad de Artes Liberales, Universidad Adolfo Ibañez