Ostrom Workshop adds program on internet governance and cybersecurity

A new Program on Governance of the Internet and Cybersecurity at Indiana University’s Ostrom Workshop is launching this semester with a range of activities, including a speaker series and an academic conference featuring invited papers and talks.

The program will build a network of scholars at IU and around the world to address timely questions regarding the security of cyber networks and effective governance of the internet, said Scott Shackelford, associate professor in the Kelley School of Business and director of the program.

The interdisciplinary program will organize presentations integrated into the weekly symposia series at the Ostrom Workshop. It will bring together experts from computing, law, business, economics, ethics, public policy, media, education, psychology, political science, international relations and other fields.

Scott Shackelford

Scott Shackelford

The academic conference, the inaugural Ostrom Workshop Colloquium on Cybersecurity and Internet Governance, will take place April 27-29 at the workshop, 513 N. Park Ave.

Shackelford said it makes sense to house such a center at the Ostrom Workshop because of the groundbreaking work conducted by the workshop’s founders, Vincent Ostrom and Elinor Ostrom, on questions of governance, institutions and public economics.

“The Ostrom Workshop is a great place to do this, because they have a long history of pushing the boundaries on governance research,” he said. “We’re trying to use some of the same theories and concepts that were developed by the Ostroms and their colleagues and apply them to internet governance and cybersecurity.”

The program gets underway as cybersecurity and the internet have gained urgent attention, from concerns about Russian hacking of U.S. campaign emails to the proliferation of fake or unreliable news. Issues of net neutrality and access to online information also create challenges for policymakers.

In addition to the Program on Governance of the Internet and Cybersecurity, the Ostrom Workshop recently added a Program on Governance of Natural Resources and is developing a Program on Political, Economic and Legal Institutions and Organizations.

“A better understanding of the formal and informal rules and institutions at play in cybersecurity and the internet is timely and will have important policy implications,” said Lee Alston, director of the Ostrom Workshop and Ostrom Chair and professor of economics and law at IU Bloomington. “Scott Shackelford is world renowned for his work in this area, and the research program he directs will galvanize more scholars to produce cutting-edge research at IU.”

Political scientists Vincent Ostrom and Elinor Ostrom founded the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at IU Bloomington in 1973 and, with their colleagues and students, established what came to be called the Bloomington School of scholarship in public economics, resource management and governance of the commons.

Elinor Ostrom received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2009 for her research on economic governance, especially of the commons and common-pool resources. She remains the only woman to have received the award. Both Ostroms died in June 2012.

Cybersecurity and the internet may seem far removed from the governance of forests, grazing rights, fisheries and water resources, which Elinor Ostrom studied. But Shackelford noted that her work showed how groups of stakeholders could develop shared rules, norms and procedures that led to effective resource management — a fair description of the informal way the internet has developed.

Vincent Ostrom was known for his influential work on polycentricity, the idea that resource management often involves multiple centers of decision-making in the public and private sectors. His theories and insights have implications for governance of the internet, which includes a mix of government, academic, nonprofit and private organizations and businesses, Shackelford said.

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