Engaging at the Science Policy Interface: Resources for the Environmental Engineering and Science Community

While our core mission as researchers and educators is to advance fundamental environmental engineering research and train the next generation of environmental engineers, some of us also have a desire to expand this mission by applying our fundamental knowledge in the policy space.  There are four pathways to doing so:

  1. Policy Relevant Fundamental Research: Many environmental engineering faculty are already working on policy relevant research topics.  (If you are NSF funded, you have at least thought about the "Broader Impacts" of your work!).  This might include understanding the factors influencing water or air quality, the feasibility of a new technology in meeting regulatory compliance standards, among other topics.  By publishing your work in peer-reviewed journals, presenting at scientific meetings, and disseminating your work to decision makers, you are advancing the state-of-the-art in the environmental engineering and science field.

  2. Policy Analysis: Bridging the space between fundamental research and direct advocacy is policy analysis.  Here, researchers use quantitative methods to examine and evaluate available options (and constraints) for realizing the goals and laws established by government agencies.  An excellent introductory resource covering the tools of environmental policy analysis is "Theory and Practice in Policy Analysis: Including Applications in Science and Technology" by M. Granger Morgan published by Cambridge Press in 2017.  Examples of peer reviewed academic papers on policy analysis can be found in Environmental Science and Technology's Policy Analysis Section, a history of which is available in this 2012 article by Mitchell J. Small.  Finally, the National Research Council products often sit squarely in this space.

  3. Policy Advocacy: The furthest from our disciplinary training, policy advocacy involves direct engagement and lobbying of decision makers to affect environmental change.  This might come in the form of meetings with congressional staff members, regulatory agencies, or NGOs.  It might also be realized by working with students on local outreach to community members or specific companies.  Finally, it might involve direct engagement with the media to access and influence public opinion.  Resources to assist in training for effective advocacy are available at the links below.

  4. Policy Fellowship Programs: The links below provide information about fellowship programs that allow participants at various career stages, including faculty, to engage at the science-policy interface.  The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) also provides a searchable database for additional fellowship opportunities.