Professors Kim and Mike Fortun Awarded NSF Grant to Study Environmental Health Governance

Professors Kim and Mike Fortun Awarded NSF Grant to Study Environmental Health Governance

Date posted: 2016-01-13 10:37:52

The aim of this project is to advance understanding of different ways scientific capacity is developed and used in governance, examining how environmental health research and governance has developed in six cities (four in the United States and two in Asia). Extending on-going work since 2008 through The Asthma Files project, this project will focus on efforts to understand and address the health effects of long term exposure to transportation-related air pollution.

In each city studied, project researchers will examine the operation and use of science in four arenas of governance (environment, health, transportation and education), and how these
different arenas interrelate. They will map the sources of scientific evidence used in governance, how these sources are evaluated, and translated into policy and programming. They will also document and analyze the scientific infrastructures that produced the findings used in governance, the diversity of stakeholders involved in interpreting scientific findings, and diverse cultural logics that shape the creation and use of scientific knowledge in different settings. Ethnographic interviews will be the primary means of data collection, supplemented by analyses of scientific publications, policy debates, and media coverage. The cities to be studied are Albany, New York City, Philadelphia, Houston, Beijing, and Bengalura. In each city, there is a collaborating researcher with deep experience and prior research in the city. The digital platform built for The Asthma Files project will support collaboration among researchers involved in the project, and the involvement of student researchers. In each city, there will be a field school to teach the project’s methods to students, and to enroll them in the on-going effort
to advance effective development and use of science in governance. Methodologically, the project will model and advance understanding of collaborative research in the social studies
of science.
 
The project will result in a theoretically robust, empirically grounded conception of (environmental health) research and governance styles, detailing and categorizing different ways of developing environmental health data, advancing the sciences of environment and health, and directing these toward governance of complex problems. The project will extend theorization of governance by addressing how scientific cultures, practices, and infrastructure shape governance processes and outcomes. The project will also test and stabilize the process and cyberinfrastructure needed to support collaborative research in the social studies of science.
Project results will have wide implications in efforts to improve collaboration between governance regimes (across scale, and between nations); such collaboration is particularly important
in addressing complex, often transboundary problems like air pollution, which call for new levels of cooperation and sharing of technology, data, and effective policy design. In the
final stage of the project, recommendations resulting from the project will be actively disseminated among policy makers, journalists and other stakeholders in all cities and countries studied in the project. Project results will also be translated into curriculum for K-undergraduate students, using the techniques and infrastructure developed by RPI’s EcoEd Research Group.

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