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Science Topics: Economics and Decision Sciences - Background What is the STAR Economics and Decision Sciences Program?

The STAR Economics and Decision Sciences (EDS) research program supports research by external social scientists that environmental decision-makers can use in real-world situations. The EDS program assists EPA in estimating costs and benefits of proposed actions, identifies costs savings of non-regulatory approaches, and assists in optimizing the use of its enforcement compliance resources. Behavioral research is important to developing effective solutions to environmental problems because the causes and remedies are behavioral in nature. Better understanding of polluter motivations and environmental values can improve the human and ecosystem health, decrease pollution control costs, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of environmental policies.

From 1995 through 2001, NCER has partnered with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and worked independently to issue 12 RFAs. Together with NSF, EPA has provided more than $17 million to fund 108 research projects.

How does NCER determine what research is needed?

NCER works with clients in EPA and elsewhere to identify the scientific questions that are of the highest interest, focus targeted competitive solicitations or requests for applications (RFAs) - on these topics, select the best and most useful peer-reviewed proposals, and disseminate the research results to a variety of audiences. Current EDS research results are helping environmental managers at all levels of government to estimate the costs and benefits of proposed actions, identify the cost-effectiveness of alternative regulatory and non-regulatory approaches, and optimize the use of enforcement and compliance resources.

What are NCER's EDS Research goals?

The EDS program focuses research on topics where behavior has the greatest impact on environmental outcomes, and where our scientific understanding is in greatest need of improvement. NCER's EDS program has four specific long-term research goals:

  1. Identify motivations for environmental behavior and decisions for different entities.
  2. Develop reliable estimates of how people value environmental and health benefits with emphasis on children's health.
  3. Identify the behavioral responses of different entities to various government interventions, including regulations, enforcement, and technical assistance.
  4. Identify the socioeconomic causes and consequences of the potentially most significant long-term environmental issues and the tools for predicting and addressing these.

To answer these questions, we have four on-going RFAs including:

  1. Valuation of Ecological and Health Benefits;
  2. Corporate Environmental Behavior and the Effectiveness of Government Interventions,
  3. Market Mechanisms and Incentives; and,
  4. The Value and Use of Environmental Information.

Specific focus areas within these RFAs change from year to year in response to newly identified needs and knowledge added by our existing research.

NCER's Economics and Decision Sciences Research is being performed under:

  • GPRA Goal 8: Provide a sound scientific basis to improve understanding of environmental risk and develop and implement innovative approaches for current and future environmental problems
  • Objective 3: Emerging Risk Issues. By 2008, establish capability and mechanisms to anticipate or identify environmental or other changes that may portend future risk, integrate futures planning into ongoing programs and promote coordinated preparation for, and response to change
  • Sub-objective 001: Pollution Prevention and New Technology - Enhance the Environmental Protection Agency's capabilities to anticipate, understand, and respond to future environmental developments; conduct research in areas that combine human health and ecological considerations; and to conduct research in social science, environmental decision making, economic valuation, and estimation of environmental costs, risk, and benefits.

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