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Inaugural Philomathia Prize Awarded

Inaugural Philomathia Prize Awarded for innovative work on the future of the commons

The grant will enable Associate Professor Dustin Garrick to investigate one of the most fundamental puzzles in science – how and why people cooperate – in the urgent context of environmental change and resource conflicts.

It is almost thirty years since the late Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom produced her landmark study, Governing the Commons. Ostrom showed that people can avoid the tragedy of the commons – the collapse of shared natural resources from overuse – when they work together. This form of self-governance emerged as an alternative to all-powerful governments and the free market in regulating resource extraction.

In the decades since, climate change, water shortages and rapid biodiversity loss have compounded pressure on natural resources. There are over two billion more people on the planet and urban populations have nearly doubled, accelerating regional and global challenges that outstrip capacity for local collective action alone to solve.

dustin garrickDr Garrick’s work revisits the idea of the commons in a world approaching peak population, deepening inequality and growing threats to democratic forms of governance. As the scale and pace of conflict over water and other natural resources intensifies, his research examines the politics and governance of environmental challenges and explores the shifting roles of governments, society and markets in responding. The Inaugural Philomathia Award supports Dr Garrick’s work in this important area.

The Philomathia Foundation is a family foundation which aims to promote human values and science through education and research. In addition to the University of Oxford, the foundation is partnered with the University of California (Berkeley), the University of Cambridge, McMaster University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The Philomathia Award was created to support breakthrough research in an area of global concern. The recipient for the Philomathia Award is selected based on demonstrated successful scientific investigation or scholarly research work in the advancement of human knowledge with the purpose to improve the global living condition.

Dr Garrick will use this award as a one-year fellowship. Over the next academic year, he will work on a book project examining environmental markets and the future of the commons, drawing from global experience and diverse disciplinary traditions. While it will be academically rigorous, the book will also aim to engage with and inform a wider audience. The governance of the commons is an urgent real-world challenge and new research in this area can contribute to a fairer, safer and more prosperous future.

Dr Garrick is an associate professor in the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment and lecturer in the School of Geography and Environment, University of Oxford, and a research fellow of Green Templeton College, which will host its annual seminar series on the Future of the Commons in Hilary Term 2020. The book project is an outgrowth of the Leshner Fellowship, awarded by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2018.