New Research Center to Improve Environmental Decision-Making
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The National Science Foundation has announced the award of $5 million to the Joint Institute for Energy and Environment (JIEE) of the University of Tennessee to create a National Center for Environmental Decision-Making Research. The center is intended to improve the environmental decision-making process in both the public and private sectors by making scientific environmental research more relevant and useful to decision makers.
"Public support for protecting the environment continues to be strong, and there is widespread agreement that past environmental legislation and regulation have been effective in correcting and preventing environmental problems," said Bill Butz, NSF's division director for social, behavioral and economic research. "At the same time, both critics and supporters of past policy are struggling to define new directions for environmental policy that will be effective, but less burdensome and more affordable. This center will be an important resource in this ongoing process."
The award to JIEE -- a collaboration of the University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Tennessee Valley Authority -- is for $1 million per year for up to five years. The center will be directed by environmental analyst Milton Russell, head of the JIEE and a former assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Russell will lead interdisciplinary research teams representing economics, urban planning, policy analysis, sociology, geography, mathematics, ecology, psychology, political science and computer science. The teams will synthesize existing research, perform case studies, assemble a "toolkit" of processes and techniques, and design an information system for decisionmakers.
The center will increase understanding of how environmental decisions are made. "Public, not-for-profit and private organizations regularly make decisions that affect and are affected by the environment," explained Butz. "We need to understand better the processes that produce these decisions, and thus learn how to encourage the desirable ones. This coordinated, multidisciplinary and long-term research effort can help answer that need."
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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