I’m Professor of Political Science at Indiana University – Bloomington, and Visiting Professor at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi for the 2018-9 AY.  My research is primarily in American politics, particularly legislative institutions, although my recent work is increasingly comparative and policy-oriented. 

I am currently involved in two distinct streams of research. The first is an extension of research on the politics of US-Russia space cooperation conducted while I was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Russia and the special issue of Social Science Quarterly that I guest-edited. The focus of this new work is on “selling science,” or how scientific agencies such as NASA persuade elected officials and the public to fund basic research, given that returns on this investment will take years or decades to materialize—if they ever do. Our (Donald Gerhart, Sean Nicholson-Crotty, and myself) NSF-funded research aims at understanding how agencies evaluate research proposals or work in progress, with the goal of improving measures of scientific innovation that can be applied to real-world research.  The analysis combines game theory and empirical analysis of data on research conducted onboard the International Space Station.

This work is a stepping-off point to a second solo project that focuses on congressional management of scientific research, and attempts by agencies and scientists to prevent basic research programs from being cast as political benefits to benefit members’ constituents.  My working hypothesis is that selling science requires agencies to credibly signal that they can distinguish good science from bad, and that their choices reflect these determinations.  Thus, in contrast to the conventional wisdom about pork-barrel politics, where there is little to deter political allocations, funding for basic research is an example of a situation where context can deter the impulse to benefit constituents.  

A third science project, working with a team of ZU researchers, is aimed at undertaking a multi-year research and training project to study government policies aimed at expanding knowledge economies.  This initiative will address three fundamental questions: (a) how is innovation defined and measured throughout the world, (b) how do these definitions shape the choice of policies to encourage innovation, and (c) what combination of definition and policy instruments are the best fit to the unique circumstances in the UAE, both now and in the future?  

My second research program extends my work on the US Congress to understand legislative decision-making in other contexts.  This work focuses on linking party systems, majority rule, and policy outcomes with an analytic tool known as the uncovered set.  This project has yielded multiple publications and NSF grants.  Most recently, I am coauthor with Regina Smyth and Kwon Nok Chan on a forthcoming Journal of Politics paper uses the case of the Hong Kong Legislative Council to analyze how an electoral authoritarian regime uses legislative rules to maintain control over policy outcomes while preserving (relatively) free and fair elections.  Working with a larger team of coauthors (Christopher Kam, Itai Sened, and Regina Smyth), we are developing additional applications of the uncovered set technology to measure the policy relevance of legislative parties, thereby contributing to theories of government formation, the policy implications of electoral and party systems, and regime stability. 

Finally, working with a former IU undergraduate, Edan Gomez, and a visiting professor at IU, Vanessa Cruz-Nichols, I am completing an analysis of the federal U-Visa program.  This program enables local police to provide a path to legal status for undocumented crime victims who "has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful" in efforts to prosecute the perpetrators of such crimes.  Using five years of data on u-visa certifications and a multivariate regression, we show that the use of this policy by police forces varies with the political character of their home county, including the vote for the 2016 GOP presidential candidate and the so-called immigrant threat, or the percentage of a county's population who are undocumented.  We also use this data to explain variation in local compliance with Trump-era immigration directives.  

I have taught a wide range of classes in American politics, from my department’s 450-student Intro to American Politics lecture course to a recent graduate seminar on American Institutions that integrated studies from political development with rational choice institutionalism.  In between, I have offered classes on legislative politics (undergrad Congress, graduate legislative process with considerable comparative content), as well as political parties and the presidency at the undergraduate level.  I’ve also taught the graduate American Politics field seminar.  Over the next few years, I expect that I will offer a new undergraduate class on the politics of science and innovation.  Finally, as visiting faculty at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi this year, I'm teaching courses on American politics, Introduction to Political Science, and an advanced research paper seminar.

William Bianco