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WVU researchers receives $132,000 for crisis study

November 28, 2014

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia University scholar says the 2014 Ukrainian crisis and lessons learned from that country’s parliamentary elections in October could hold meaning for the United States.

The National Science Foundation announced this month that WVU political science professor Erik Herron would receive an award in the amount of $ 132,670. The award will fund a study about how government organizations manage crisis situations during election cycles. Herron’s areas of expertise are Russian and East European studies.

A former program director for the NSF, Herron says the ongoing situation in Ukraine could influence U.S. foreign policy.

“The crisis in the Ukraine is probably the most significant crisis in Europe since the end of the Cold War,” Herron said.

The award begins Dec. 1. Herron’s research will address the ability of Ukraine to “act as a unified state” in the wake of a major conflict. “To the extent that it’s unable to act as a unified state and provide services in democratic elections, it becomes increasingly unstable. And instability in that region is threatening to security in both Europe and the U.S.”

He said studying Ukraine can also give insights about governments in crisis situations can rebuild as functional societies.

“Hopefully we can help U.S. policymakers make better decisions about how to improve practices in parts of the world where U.S. security interests are at stake,” Herron said.

He said he also thinks October’s Ukrainian elections can help us hold better elections on U.S. soil.

“I think the US could benefit from having expertise from abroad and recommendations about how we could improve our own election processes,” he said. “No election process is perfect.”

Herron’s study, titled, “Democratic State Capacity and Organizational Adaptation in Crisis Conditions,” will use data collected from teams based in the United States and Ukraine.

According to Herron, the team conducted pre- and post-election surveys, gathered personnel data from Ukrainian election workers, and collected official election results after a parliamentary election that took place in October. Herron traveled to Ukraine for that election.

The election occurred just seven months after a 2014 conflict between Russia and Ukraine over control of the Crimean Peninsula.

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