Elinor Ostrom, a political scientist at Indiana University well-known for her work on governance of common resources, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in October 2009, becoming the first woman recipient of the prestigous honor in the award's 40 year history. She shared the award with Oliver Williamson, the Edgar F. Kaiser Professor Emeritus of Business, Economics, and Law at the University of California, Berkeley.
Ostrom's work has combined theory, historical records and field observations to challenge the standard economic belief that common resources, such as fisheries, forests and watersheds, would be poorly governed without either privatization or government intervention. Beginning with her 1990 book, Governing the Commons:The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Cambridge University Press), she argued that very often people directly involved in managing common resources will develop sound and sustainable management programs once they agree on key issues such as clearly defined boundaries and acceptable enforcement methods.
Ostrom joined the faculty at IU Bloomington in the mid-1960s after earning a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Californa, Los Angeles. She was an early advocate of cross-disciplinary study and, with her fellow political scientist and husband Vincent Ostrom, in the early 1970s she co-founded the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, an inter-disciplinary center where students, researchers and visiting scholars can collaborate on policy projects. Now the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science, Ostrom continues to serve as the Workshop's Senior Research Director. She is also the Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University.
She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, and a recipient of the Frank E. Seidman Distinguished Award in Political Economy, the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science. In addition to Governing the Commons, her other books include Rules, Games, and Common-Pool Resources (1994, with Roy Gardner); Local Commons and Global Interdependence: Heterogeneity and Cooperation in Two Domains and Trust and Reciprocity: Interdisciplinary Lessons from Experimental Research (2003, with James Walker); The Commons in the New Millennium: Challenges and Adaptations (2003, with Nives Dolšak); The Samaritan’s Dilemma: The Political Economy of Development Aid (2005, with Clark Gibson, Krister Andersson, and Sujai Shivakumar); Understanding Institutional Diversity (2005); and Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice (2007, with Charlotte Hess).
Elinor Ostrom, 2009 Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences
Zagorski, N. 2006. Profile of Elinor Ostrom. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103:(51) 19221-19223