PhD graduate Valeria Bernardo awarded Funcas prize for best dissertation in social sciences

The PhD graduate in Economics Dr Valeria Bernardo has been awarded the Enrique Fuentes Quintana Prize by the Spanish Savings Banks Foundation (Funcas) for the best dissertation in the field of social sciences for the academic year 2017/18. The Enrique Fuentes Quintana prize for Social Sciences recognises the efforts, commitment and hard work required to complete a doctoral thesis and is awarded to doctoral theses in the field of Economics and Sociology.

Dr Valeria Bernardo defended her PhD thesis Essays in Competition and Entry Regulations on September 12th, 2017, at the University of Barcelona. The thesis was supervised by the UB School of Economics researcher Dr Joan-Ramon Borrell-Arqué.

“I am very proud of Valeria. This Funcas prize is acknowledging her capacity to undertake successfully high quality, relevant and sound research.” said Joan-Ramon Borell-Arqué. “It was a pleasure supervising her during her doctoral studies because she showed early on that she had analytical and intellectual skills to contribute to research at the frontier in Empirical Industrial Organisation and in Empirical Policy Evaluation, with a primary focus in Transportation and Logistics”, he added.

The dissertation analyses the effect of entry regulation in the electric vehicle, gasoline retail market and aviation market, for which regulations enhancing competition are fundamental. The thesis uses different econometric methodologies to evaluate policies in force and identify possible effects of alternative public interventions.

Earlier this year, Valeria Bernardo was awarded the extraordinary doctoral prize for the academic year 2016-2017 by the University of Barcelona. “In undertaking the three papers of her double prized PhD thesis and the work in progress post-doc papers, Valeria clearly shows that she is able to use and develop empirical methods for structural and nonstructural policy evaluation which are at the knowledge frontier”, Joan-Ramon Borrell-Arqué stated.

Valeria Bernardo is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Barcelona and TecnoCampus Mataró and a research fellow at Governments and Markets (GiM) research group at the University of Barcelona. Her research interests are Transport Economics, Industrial Organisation and Public Policy Evaluation. “During her recent 2-year post-doctoral stage of her career, she is working in different and very interesting research projects with a wide range of co-authors on globalization, transportation & logistics, water demand, competition, and vertical integration in petrol markets”, said Joan-Ramon Borell-Arqué.

The three papers that constitute her PhD thesis have been published in high-impact international journals such as Energy Economics, Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review and Journal of Regulatory Economics.

In her first paper, she had to get into the deeps of using large micro database and writing codes. She also had to get into the difficulties of creating sample paths using GIS software for merging the survey data into a geographical codified graph of paths and intersections. “That was really new for me as I had no previous experience on supervising research using geo coded data. I learned a lot from her”, Joan-Ramon Borrell-Arqué commented.

After jointly setting up the basics of a model of strategic interaction in a code, she developed and managed all the codes for simulating a wide range of iterative solutions which finally converged towards a unique equilibrium for the different behavioral and regulatory assumptions. “Although the simulation may offer multiple equilibria, as later on was outlined by more recent papers she offer for the first time evidence that such simulations converge to a unique equilibrium, later named herculean equilibrium. This is without doubt a contribution in the field of simulating market interactions and outcomes in a free entry set up. And, as it is focused in a hot and trendy new market such as the electric vehicle fast recharging stations which is challenging the research at the frontier between Transportation and Energy”, Joan-Ramon Borrell-Arqué explained.

In her second paper, she merged a large data set on gasoline pricing and geo coded data on location of petrol stations and industrial sites, she set up a full empirical strategy to causally identify and quantify the impact of a policy change that removed entry restrains of new petrol stations on entry and equilibrium pricing. She set up a matching strategy and a diff-in-diff estimator in a way that was novel and sound taking advantage of a pseudo-experimental setting offered by a change of the entry regulation in Spain. Again, she used geo coding techniques to set up the treatment and control groups. She has additionally reviewed and performed all the more up to date robustness checks for testing the validity and strength of the estimation.

In her third paper, she set up an empirical policy evaluation using diff-in-diff techniques expliting the fact that Morocco was the only country in North Africa to sign an air transportation liberalisation agreement with the EU, given that the pre-liberalization traffic in all North African countries presented a common trend. “Again, this paper shows her capacity to undertake advanced empirical research in the transportation & logistics field. She identified and quantified the impact of the agreement on existing routes traffic and on new routes traffic. It turns out to be very significant as it is a two digit effect”, Joan-Ramon Borrell-Arqué concluded.

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