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IU Professor Wins A Nobel Prize

Last updated on Tuesday, October 13, 2009

(BLOOMINGTON, IN) - An Indiana University professor has won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Elinor Ostrom has taught at IU for 44 years, and is a former chair of the Political Science Department.

She won the Nobel for her research on what economists call "the tragedy of the commons":

The theory that natural resources available without restriction end up ruined by overuse. Ostrom's work contradicts that once-conventional wisdom.

She says when users are able to share information, they create and enforce regulations on their own that are more effective than attempts at government intervention.

The 75-year-old jokes she thought the 6:30AM phone call was a telemarketer.

She calls the award "a great thrill (and) a very big surprise."

She says she hopes her work can serve as a guide in the debate over how to prevent global warming.

Ostrom shares the Nobel with University of California-Berkeley Economist Oliver Williamson, who has written separately on other aspects of economic governance theory.

Ostrom co-founded IU's workshop in political theory and policy analysis with her husband Vincent, also an IU professor, in 1973.

She remained its co-director until three months ago.

Ostrom is the eighth Nobel laureate with ties to IU, and the first since 2002, when former research fellow Riccardo Giacconi won the physics prize.

She and 1946 Nobel Prize in Medicine winner Hermann Muller are the only honorees still on the IU faculty at the time they won the award.

Ostrom is the first woman to win the economics prize.

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