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RRI Faculty Research Associate Spotlight: Dr. Xiaoli Etienne

Xiaoli Etienne

We are proud to call our faculty research associates part of the RRI family. And as in any family, sharing information helps to strengthen bonds. In academia, it also provides one another with background information that may be useful in identifying collaborators and establishing relationships for future publications and research.

Therefore, each quarter, we will be profiling a different faculty research associate.

We never know what experiences during our childhood will shape our future. For Dr. Xiaoli Etienne, Assistant Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, it was the trips she spent with her father visiting farms in rural China. As her father, who worked for the local government’s agricultural division, conducted field surveys, young Xiaoli was learning one of life’s harsh lessons― that each year poor farmers in China were taking life-or-death financial risks, and it was this revelation that drove her to choose agricultural economics as her career.

In college, Etienne learned that applied economics is a critical tool to understand poverty and risk as well as to explain social phenomena and human behavior, solve real-world problems, and educate policymakers. Through applied economics, she would be able to benefit everyone involved in the economy, including the poor farmers in China.

Currently, Etienne is working on various issues in food, agricultural, and energy markets, in particular those related to price volatility. Her short-term goals are ambitious: to broaden her research fields (including regional analysis) while maintaining her research productivity in the area of commodity market analysis. “Eventually I would like to establish myself as an expert in agricultural and resource economics, as an educator that inspires others to dream bigger and motivates them to work harder, and as an economist that contributes to policy-making that challenges the status quo and creates a better world,” Etienne said.  Some of the researchers in her field that she admires and respects include, but are not limited to, Holbrook Working, William Tomek, Eugene Fama, Bruce Gardner, and Anne Peck.

She and her husband, an assistant professor in WVU’s Department of Mathematics, came to the University in 2014. Xiaoli was drawn by WVU’s high research productivity, particularly its energy-related research, and she was particularly excited that the University encourages and fosters creativity, offers a friendly working environment, and is close to Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh, PA.

“I have found the people in Davis College are quite friendly and hard-working, and my colleagues and students commit themselves to their work,” Etienne said. “They are a constant motivator for me to tackle research problems, and while everyone is willing to share their views or advice, I am particularly grateful and indebted to Dean Robison and my division chair Gerard D’Souza, both of whom have assisted me in my professional development and are there when I need advice to handle a challenging situation.”

The findings for some of her research have been surprising. Recently, for example, she and her Ph.D. student Alexandre Scarcioffolo investigated spatial price integration of natural gas markets in various regional markets in the U.S. Historically, Etienne points out, natural gas was one of the most highly regulated markets in the U.S., but this changed in the late 1970s when the industry began to deregulate amid natural gas shortages. One interesting question emerged: has the deregulation achieved its intended goal of developing a nationwide spot market that efficiently allocates natural gas? To find the answer, Etienne and Scarcioffolo evaluated the degree to which regional markets in the U.S. natural gas industry are connected and the role each market plays in the determination of national prices. The unexpected finding was that while the regional markets have become more integrated over time, the integration process seems to have slowed down recently.

“In particular,” Etienne said, “the spillover index we constructed—which measures how a shock in one market affects the price in another market―has declined over the past few years. This is surprising because this corresponds to the recent shale boom that has flooded the market with cheap natural gas.” Given the increasing completion, she expected the regional markets to be more connected. “However, this may not be that surprising after all since natural gas demand, particularly in the short run, is quite inelastic. This means that shocks in one market may have a smaller impact on another market when the overall price level is low. The issue can further be complicated by pipeline capacity constraints, a lack of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities, and other regional-specific demand and supply factors.”

Etienne incorporates many regional elements into her research and classes.  In addition to the natural gas market integration paper, she is currently investigating the determinants of price linkages between various regional natural gas markets in the U.S. Such factors may include the geographic distance, pipeline transmission capacity, industry growth, and development of renewable energy, just to name a few. “This is a multifaceted problem, and we are tackling it from both spatial and time series perspectives,” Etienne said.  In another paper, which is still in the early exploratory stage, she plans to use input-output models to estimate the economic impacts of rising foreign competition in the international markets faced by the U.S. grain sectors. “This is a very timely issue because the U.S.’s role as the leading grain exporter in the world is being challenged by South American countries,” Etienne said.

Etienne suggests that graduate students aiming for success would do well to sharpen their programming skills, particularly “R” and Matlab. In an era of big data, she says, the ability to efficiently process, clean, analyze, and make inferences from data are the essential skills for applied economists.

Some of her accomplishments include more than 24 publications in professional journals, conference proceedings, and the popular press (articles for the general public), refereeing articles for more than twenty professional journals, serving on various committees within WVU and in the profession, advising a number of Ph.D. and M.S. students, and teaching two graduate classes and one undergraduate course. She was awarded the Divison’s outstanding researcher in 2015 and was named a 2015 Big XII faculty fellow. More recently, one of her papers was listed as the top 10 most cited articles in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics (AJAE) in 2017, the profession’s top journal.

With all the demands on her time, it’s hard to imagine how she can find time for activities outside her academic life. She finds balance by following time management expert Laura Vanderkam who says, “Time is highly elastic. We cannot make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we need or want to put into it.” Through Vanderkam’s Ted talk titled “How to Gain Control of your Free time,” Etienne learned that managing time is about choosing priorities. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two little boys and traveling around the world with them; her goal is to visit all states in the U.S. (26 so far), all provinces in China (16 so far), and all continents in the world (5 so far; only Africa and Australia remain).

 

Upcoming Seminar Speakers

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Time: 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Place: Room 4004 Davis College

Dr. Heather Stephens
Assistant Professor
Agricultural and Resource Economics
West Virginia University

(Topic yet to be determined)

 

Thursday, January 25, 2018:

Time: 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Place: 325 Brooks Hall

Dr. Fernando Salgueiro Perobelli
Professor of Economics and
Researcher at the Territorial and Sectorial Analysis Laboratory (LATES/UFJF
Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Brazil

(Topic yet to be determined)

 

 Thursday, April 5, 2018:

Co-sponsored with the Institute of Water Security and Science

Time: 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Place: 325 Brooks Hall

Dr. Jadwiga R. Ziolkowska
Assistant Professor, Environmental Economist
Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability
University of Oklahoma

(Topic yet to be determined)

2018 Summer Course in Spatial Econometrics

The Regional Research Institute Summer Course in spatial Econometrics is scheduled for June 25 through June 28, 2018 at the Regional Research Institute located at 886 Chestnut Ridge Road in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Description:

The objective of the course is to provide a (not so short) introduction to spatial econometrics. Students will learn how to model and incorporate spatial dependencies into their empirical analyses. The course will cover basic as well as more advanced concepts ranging from the different typologies of spatial data, through the definition of connectivity in space (spatial weights matrices), to a comprehensive treatment of various spatial econometric models, both crosssectional as well as panel. Estimation methods presented will include MLE (maximum likelihood), GMM (generalized method of moments), GLS (generalized least squares), and GS2SLS (generalized spatial two-stage least squares). The latter part of the course will deal with special topics such as panel data models and various testing procedures.

Instructor:

Gianfranco Piras, Associate Professor of Economics, The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

Organization:

The courses are organized into a format that includes morning (theoretical) lectures and afternoon computing lab and applications sessions. A reading list will be provided for each of the topics covered.

Material:

Suggested readings include:
Kelejian H.H. and Piras G. (2017) “Spatial Econometrics, 1st Edition”, Academic Press.
Additional readings will be provided during the course.

Applications:

Applications Period Opens: January 8, 2018
Extended Application Deadline: April 23, 2018
Acceptance Notification: Two days after application is received.
Confirm Participation by April 27, 2018

Important Dates:

Applicants should submit a curriculum vitae and a brief statement of interest to the RRI . Applicants will be screened for suitable levels of preparation and background, and placed into the course on a first-come, first-served basis.

Fees:

Course fees are $3,000. Fees cover course tuition, lunches and course material. Submitted fees will be non-refundable. Accommodation and other living expenses are not included. A block of rooms will be reserved at nearby hotels at a discounted rate.

Additional information about lodging will be available at a later date.

 

What is the Future of Regional Science

Regional Research Frontiers, Volume 1 and Volume 2 was released this past spring by Springer as a part of their Advances in Spatial Science series. Edited by Randall Jackson, Director of the Regional Research Institute (RRI), Professor of Geology and Geography, and Adjunct Professor of Economics at West Virginia University and Peter V. Schaeffer, Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Adjunct Professor of Economics, and RRI Faculty Research Associate, the two-volume book comprises 37 authors and almost 700 pages.

Click here for more information about Regional Research Frontiers – Volume 1 and Volume 2.

 

 

 

 

 

Two RRI Graduate Research Assistants Win Best Paper Award

Elham Erfanian

Elham Erfanian

Amir Borges Ferreira Neto

Amir Borges Ferreira Neto

Elham Erfanian and Amir Borges Ferreira Neto, two RRI graduate research assistants, were co-recipients of the monetary award for Best Paper in Economics by a Graduate Student at the Academy of Economy and Finance. The presentation took place at the Academy’s 54th annual conference in late February in Charleston, SC.

The Academy is celebrating its 50th year; its mission is to support the increasing role played by financial economists and finance specialists. Originally more regional in nature, it began in Mississippi, its membership base had expanded over the years to include members from  many states in addition to areas outside the borders of the United States.

Erfanian, also a doctoral candidate in Agricultural and Resource Economics, said, “I am so glad to win the award. We started the paper from an assignment for our econometrics II course. Adding a spatial dimension to the research enabled us to ask more questions about the effects that R&D elements has on research output. Incorporating spatial dimension and measuring neighboring effects helps regional economists to incorporate the spillover effects in research and development literature and that leads to more realistic policy implementations.”

Borges Ferreira Neto had this to say, “I am very happy to have won the outstanding graduate student paper award in Economics as it tells me I am on the right path as a researcher. With respect to regional science, this paper’s main contribution is to re-introduce the importance of looking at this other facet of innovation, namely, the production of science (journal articles) instead of usual measure: patents.”

The name of the winning paper they co-authored is Scientific output: labor or capital intensive? An analysis for selected countries. In the paper, they explain why “policy-makers should understand how the different inputs – namely labor and capital – are related to a country’s scientific output.” They address this issue by “estimating output elasticities for labor and capital using a panel of 31 countries in nine years.”

Dr. Randall Jackson, RRI Director had this to say about the winners, “We are very proud of Elham and Amir, who have now joined the ranks of other RRI graduate student award winners.  Recognitions like these reinforce the value and benefits of direct graduate student participation in funded research projects, from inception through research communications.”

The two authors have had their paper published in Scientometrics, Volume 112(1) pp. 461-482. Scientometrics is an international journal for all quantitative aspects of the science of science, communication in science and science policy.

New Input-Output Software Now Available

In line with an Economic Development Administration research project on Regional Innovation Systems, RRI researchers set about to gain firsthand technology transfer experience by developing its own commercial software. In the process, we gained valuable insights into copyrighting, licensing, and other steps in the tech transfer process. These efforts produced not only academic insights and outcomes, but we also now have in hand the software, called IO-Snap (Input-Output State and National Analysis Program).

A Demo/Trial version is available now, and the Pro version, which will have greater sectoral detail and more years of data, will be released in coming weeks. The Demo/Trial version is ideal for classroom use, and we expect it to continue to be free to all users. Once the IO-Snap Pro is released, it will available at no cost to users within WVU; however, there will be a cost to users outside WVU.

To get your copy or learn more about IO-Snap, including video tutorials, please visit the IO-Snap Website.

If you decide to download your own copy, you will be taken to a typical product purchase page. You will need to enter all but the credit card/financial info to get the product link.

Let us know what you think about the software!

WVU to Lead ARC-Funded Research on the Coal Industry Ecosystem

 

A collaborative team of researchers at West Virginia University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville has received a grant of nearly $350,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the U.S. Economic Development Administration to study the consequences of falling coal demand on the Appalachian region.

Researchers from WVU’s College of Business and Economics and the Regional Research Institute are part of the team that will study the breadth and depth of the declining coal industry on Appalachia.

John Deskins, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at WVU, said, “Currently data exist that simply report the losses in direct coal employment across Appalachia. However, there is no existing research that also documents the full economic effect of coal’s decline on communities across Appalachia given a community’s broader economic context, and when considering losses from businesses that are linked to coal through supplier connections and impacts associated with losses at coal-fired power plants. Our research will be the first to establish the complete economic impact of coal’s decline across Appalachian communities and, as such, our work will be critical in properly directing any economic redevelopment efforts in coming years in light of coal’s decline.”

The grant project, which should be completed in June 2017, was one of 42 awards totaling nearly $28 million from the Obama administration’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative to stimulate economic growth and opportunity in communities that have historically relied on the coal industry. The WVU/UT research project will also look at trends in coal production, transportation and coal-based power generation to determine how the coal industry downturn might impact freight rail, barge and truck transportation. Rounding out the project will be an analysis of the impacts of the coal industry decline on human capital resources and development in Appalachia.

Randall Jackson, director of the Regional Research Institute at WVU and project principle investigator, said the project is perfectly aligned with the land-grant mission of both universities.

“Our group includes individuals who have devoted their careers to understanding industrial economic systems, energy policy, transportation and human capital,” he said. “Our research expertise is perfectly matched to project goals.”

The UT researchers are from the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, the Center for Transportation Research in the Tickle College of Engineering, and the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research, in the Haslam College of Business.

This year, the POWER initiative has invested $66.3 million in 71 projects to diversify local and regional economies by retraining coal industry workers in 15 states for jobs in agriculture, technology, entrepreneurship, manufacturing and other industries.

“These federal investments will enable Appalachia’s coal-impacted communities to continue their work developing innovative paths towards economic resilience,” said Earl F. Gohl, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission. “They will directly support the region’s emerging industries, which are making Appalachia America’s next great investment opportunity.”

“We are very pleased to engage in this research,” Jackson said, “which gives us the opportunity to deepen our understanding of the coal industry ecosystem and, at the same time, contribute to our own Appalachian region as we adjust and adapt to new and sometimes painful economic realities.”

Did you know. . .

During the month of June, the RRI website received nearly 72% new visitors. The top five countries these visitors represented include the U.S., China, United Kingdom, Brazil, and Canada.

The greatest percentage of visitors fell within the 25-34 age group, with 54% being male and 46% being female.

Amir Borges Ferreira Neto Awarded Fellowship


Amir Borges Ferreira Neto is a graduate research assistant in the RRI and a doctoral candidate in the College of Business and Economics. Just recently, he became a recipient of the W. Marston and Katharine B. Becker Doctoral Fellows Endowment. The Beckers are both WVU alumni.

Borges Ferreira Neto said, “I am honored and grateful to have been awarded this prestigious fellowship.” He continues, “On the one hand, the fellowship will allow me the opportunity to focus on both my doctoral and my personal research, which are consistent with the donors’ expectations of regional and public policy-oriented research. On the other hand, over the next couple of years I will be able to complement my doctoral training with  teaching experience while continuing to maintain focus on my research.”

This fellowship is awarded to the top students by the Center for Free Enterprise at WVU and is based on a student’s ability to communicate basic economic principles through research on state policy. Fellows are expected to engage in the ongoing dialogue on state economic policy through public speaking opportunities and new commentary and publications. Borges Ferreira Neto explained, “Because of this fellowship, I expect to finish my doctoral program with both research and teaching experience concurrent to publishing and participating in conferences to strengthen network opportunities.”

Students are awarded a $20,000 annual stipend to work on research relevant to West Virginia economic policy while pursuing doctoral studies.

WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY JOINS ELITE IN WORLDWIDE RANKING: RRI and Affiliates Make Their Mark in Regional Science Research

Research just released reveals the prominent role played by West Virginia University in the field of regional science, defined by the nexus of economics, geography, and planning. At WVU, the Regional Research Institute (RRI) is the focal point for this kind of research, with Faculty Research Associates (FRA) in 21 WVU departments and 5 colleges. RRI and FRA efforts place WVU at number two nationally and number 7 in the world in numbers of articles published in the Top Ten Core Regional Science Journal Publications for the most recent five-year period (2010-2014). Nationally, WVU follows only The Ohio State University, and leads institutions like Arizona Sate University (3), UCLA (4), UIUC (5), Oklahoma State University (6) and Cornell, Harvard, and UC-Irvine rounding out the top 10. Internationally, WVU ranks higher on this list than such institutions as the University of Cambridge, Oxford, and University College London. Among the Top 100 ranking authors internationally are the RRI’s director Randall Jackson (53), Donald Lacombe (80), and Gianfranco Piras (28), who along with RRI’s FRAs have helped the Institute strengthen its reputation as an internationally recognized center of excellence in regional research.[1]

The report, published by researchers at Oklahoma State University, appears as the RRI begins its 50th Anniversary celebration, and validates the Institute’s longstanding goal of enhancing the visibility and reputation of the University both nationally and internationally. It reinforces statements from the RRI’s most recent external review that “to economists and geographers trained since the early 1960s, WVU is best known as an international leader in regional research.” The review went on to add that no other research group in this area has been so attentive to the dissemination of new knowledge that they have produced, and that doubtless thousands of regional researchers worldwide have bookmarked the RRI website as their entry point for conducting regional research.

“We are pleased to continue our half-century tradition of regional research excellence,” said Jackson, adding that “we know that many decisions to accept appointments at WVU have been heavily influenced by the Institute’s stature and its community of on-campus scholars, and a great many student job prospects and career paths have been enhanced by their RRI ties.” The Institute brings together faculty and students with regional and spatial analytical interests to engage in interdisciplinary research. More than two dozen WVU faculty specialize and offer more than 30 courses in spatial statistics, spatial econometrics, regional economic analysis, and related research topics. Virtually all of the contributing publications were authored by RRI Faculty, FRAs, and Graduate Research Assistants.

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[1] Preliminary unpublished revisions to correct some misclassifications show these numbers to be Jackson (33), Lacombe (84), Piras (30), and ARE’s Peter Schaeffer (83). The original report and preliminary revisions are available upon request.