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Week of April 29, 2013

Political scientist Robert Axelrod wins prestigious Johan Skytte Prize

Robert Axelrod, professor of political science and public policy, is the winner of the prestigious 2013 Johan Skytte Prize in political science, awarded for “profoundly having changed our presumptions about the preconditions for human cooperation.”

Axelrod, who also is the Mary Ann and Charles R. Walgreen Jr. Professor for the Study of Human Understanding, is best known for his interdisciplinary work on the evolution of cooperation, which has been cited more than 30,000 times. His current research interests include international security and sense making.

“I am greatly honored to receive the Johan Skytte Prize. I am especially pleased that they recognized my work on cooperation, which has been such an important part of my career,” said Axelrod, who will accept the cash prize award and medal at a Sept. 28 ceremony in Uppsala, Sweden.

He is the second U-M political scientist to win the award in recent years. Ronald Inglehart, the Amy and Alan Lowenstein Professor of Democracy, Democratization and Human Rights, professor of political science and a research professor at the Center for Political Studies, received the award in 2011.

Axelrod has opened new research frontiers through his work, contributing to political science, economics, sociology, anthropology, biology and computer science. His conclusions are decisive for improving our understanding of international relations, negotiations, complex organizations and political decision-making bodies.

Prior to coming to U-M, he taught at the University of California, Berkeley from 1968-74. He has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in political science from Yale.

Among his honors and awards are memberships in the National Academy of Sciences, a five-year MacArthur Prize Fellowship, the Newcomb Cleveland Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences for an outstanding contribution to science, and the National Academy of Sciences Award for Behavioral Research Relevant to the Prevention of Nuclear War. He also served as president of the American Political Science Association in 2006-07.

Charles Shipan, who chairs the Department of Political Science, said the U-M community is delighted about Axelrod’s latest honor because the Skytte Prize is designed to recognize eminent scholars who have made valuable contributions to political science.

“That description fits Bob perfectly,” said Shipan, the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Professor of Social Science. “He has made path-breaking contributions to the study of cooperation, war, peace and culture, among many other topics.

“But it also understates his contributions. As to a degree unprecedented among political scientists, Bob’s work has influenced scholars in an amazingly wide variety of other areas, including all of the other social sciences, biology and computer science.”

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