Housing international data in a new home

The Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations (ITPIR) and AidData hosted an open house at their new space on 427 Scotland St. in Williamsburg on Sept. 24 to thank the College community for its support during a period of rapid growth for both organizations.

Approximately 100 guests and visitors were treated to international cuisine, music, a three-story exhibition of current projects being undertaken by students, faculty and staff who now occupy the house.

Since a $25 million five-year award from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) last November, AidData has grown exponentially. With the award, AidData became one of seven development labs in USAID’s Higher Education Solutions Network. This required nearly quadrupling the number of employees and finding a workplace large enough to accommodate the new initiatives.

“When you quadruple the size of your budget overnight and start hiring, moving, painting, building software, and sending dozens of students abroad, it puts a real strain on the university system,” Director of ITPIR Mike Tierney said. “The people that deserve a real hand are all of the offices on campus that work behind the scenes to provide the support we need to do cutting edge research.”President Taylor Reveley offers remarks at the AidData and ITPIR Open House.

As W&M President Taylor Reveley said at the event, “The House That AidData Built” provides students and faculty with space to work on collaborative projects that bridge the gap between policy and research.

The Institute is comprised of five projects: Reform Incentives, Project on International Peace and Security (PIPS), Violent International Political Conflict and Terrorism (VIPCAT), Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) and AidData.

“It was great to be able to share the work being done by students and faculty. I’m especially proud of the presentations made by our students,” Tierney said. “These researchers employ cutting edge social science methods in order to address pressing international policy problems. And they are making a difference.”

AidData Research Assistant Sara Rock ’14 talked with guests about her work at Kathamndu University in Nepal last summer. Rock worked with students and faculty to train them in Geographic Information Science technology and to teach them how to use the geocoded data that AidData provides to solve local problems.

“I always enjoy explaining to people with no exposure to AidData the kind of work we do,” Rock said. “They are always impressed, especially with the fact that so many undergraduates are involved in the process.”

Before going to Nepal with AidData, Research Assistants had not moved into the Scotland Street house.

“When I left for the summer, the house was just purchased and barely furnished. Now that I’m back it’s awesome to see so many students working here all of the time,” Rock said. “There are so many projects going on, and everyone is curious about everyone else’s work.”

The first floor of the house hosts the Institute projects, including Reform Incentives, TRIP, PIPS and VIPCAT, while the second floor is devoted to AidData’s everyday operations. The third floor serves as a student workspace, where members of all five projects can work on different research initiatives, engage in lectures and presentations, or take a break with a game of ping-pong.

“It is extremely useful having all of AidData’s activities in a single location. Having a space solely devoted to the Institute and AidData makes it easier for students to collaborate and get direct feedback from their project managers,” AidData’s Director of Operations David Trichler said. “Projects are able to interact and collaborate with each other now that they are all under one roof.”