Marion seeks to understand how institutions work and how they shape social change. The questions she asks about institutions and about mechanisms of social change are motivated by the challenges of sustainability, which she sees as a problem of collective adaptation to a complex environment. Thus she seeks to characterize the adaptive capacity of societies as shaped by their institutions. For example, she is interested in how norms and rules evolve. She is also interested in measuring the quality of deliberation in different institutional environments, so as to eventually understand how political institutions shape social learning, and how political conflict can be structured to improve social learning. A third direction of her work is to understand how technological innovation can be directed to address collective problems.
Currently, Marion is studying the evolution of environmental laws in the United States using a comprehensive dataset of all court cases over the last 40 years. Her approach combines network analysis and text analysis. The first part of the project provided evidence that laws evolve autonomously from the shifts in power in the political branches of government, a finding that runs counter to current political economy theories of law. She is now analyzing the interaction of ideas and interest groups over time in this network of decisions. Marion has recently started a project to investigate how relationships between firms in supply chains affect the ability of these firms to coordinate their search for radical innovations. In turn, she is interested in the implication of these coordination challenges for how institutions can direct technological innovation towards the decarbonization of the economy.
Marion earned a PhD in Sustainable Development at Columbia University, with specialization in economics and political science. Prior to her PhD, Marion studied Ecology at the ETH Zurich and Earth Sciences at MIT.