Roger, Charles B. and Rowan, Sam S. (2022). "Analyzing international organizations: How the concepts we use affect the answers we get." The Review of International Organizations, vol. 17, no. 3, p. 597-625.

We explore how “international organizations” have been conceptualized and operationalized in the field of International Relations (IR), identify an important gap between the two, and demonstrate how this shapes our understanding of world politics. Traditionally, we show, IR has embraced a broad conception of international organizations (IOs) that appreciates variation in design. However, the literature has largely coalesced around a measurement standard that reflects the characteristics of major postwar IOs. Prevailing measures, therefore, mainly count formal IOs—bodies founded with legally binding agreements—and omit informal IOs, which are founded with non-binding instruments. We argue that this produces a disconnect between theory and empirical evidence used in the field, since scholars frequently make arguments about IOs in general but draw inferences from formal IOs only. After reviewing how this disconnect has emerged, we use an original dataset on state membership in 260 informal IOs to reanalyze a number of important studies, showing heterogeneous effects for subtypes of IOs that conflict with existing theories to varying degrees. These differences imply that formal and informal IOs have different effects and that existing findings in the field are partly artifacts of the specific way IO variables have been operationalized by scholars. Based on this, we offer recommendations for how to improve research practices moving forward.

Publisher's version; pre-print; presentation

Rowan, Sam S. (2021) "Does institutional proliferation undermine cooperation? Theory and evidence from climate change." International Studies Quarterly, vol. 65, no. 2, p. 461-475.

Global politics has experienced tremendous institutional proliferation, yet many questions remain about why states join these institutions and whether they support cooperation. I build on existing work to develop a general theory of state participation in dense institutional environments that also helps explain cooperative outcomes. I argue that states may be dissatisfied when cooperation proceeds either too slowly or too quickly and that these two types of dissatisfaction motivate opposing participation behaviour. Deepeners are dissatisfied with the slow pace of cooperation and join institutions to support cooperation, while fragmenters are dissatisfied with the quick pace and join institutions to undermine cooperation. I evaluate my argument using new data on 63 climate institutions and states' greenhouse gas mitigation targets in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. I find that membership in climate institutions designed to facilitate implementation is associated with more ambitious targets, while membership in general is unrelated to targets.

Publisher's version; pre-print; supplementary information; data

Rowan, Sam. S. (2019). "Pitfalls in comparing Paris pledges". Climatic Change, vol. 155, no. 4, p. 455-467.

The Paris pledges are unique documents in climate governance that outline what each country intends to do to combat climate change. Often, these documents contain headline greenhouse gas percentage reduction targets that appear to summarize countries’ contributions to mitigation. This is a boon for comparative climate policy research. However, I show in this paper that the Paris pledges require detailed interpretation to be comparable. I demonstrate the risks in comparing these targets by re-visiting a recent studying linking national public opinion to the stringency of countries’ mitigation goals. I develop new indicators that better account for the structure of the targets and show in replications that the original finding is inconsistent with the underlying data. I conclude by drawing lessons for studying the Paris pledges.

Publisher's version (open access); PDF (open access); pre-print; non-technical summary; replication data

Working papers

"Enforcing cooperation using issue linkage: Theory from the intersection of climate change and trade"

"Does climate protest influence political speech?" (with Christopher Barrie and Thomas Fleming)

"The new terrain of global governance: Mapping membership and fragmentation across international organizations." (with Charles Roger)

"Extreme weather and climate policy."

Please email me for a draft if you're interested.