Poster Paper: Public Policy's Bibliography: The Use of Research in U.S. Regulatory Impact Analyses

Thursday, November 7, 2013
West End Ballroom A (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

John Hird and Bruce A. Desmarais, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Title: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Use of Scientific Research by the EPA in Justifying Economically Significant Environmental Regulations

Authors: Bruce A. Desmarais and John A. Hird (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Abstract: This paper examines the use of research in informing environmental policymaking.  In developing environmental regulations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other environmental regulators must rigorously assess the impacts of environmental hazards with references to scientific literature and findings. At the same time, many funded scientific research programs are designed with the goal of informing environmental policy.  Indeed, funding agencies often require the articulation of societal impacts in making awards.  In this project we ask, what general features of research outputs predict that those outputs will inform public policy? We bring to bear a unique data source that connects specific US federal regulations to specific scientific publications. Specifically, we analyze the research cited in Regulatory Impact Analyses (RIAs) drafted by the EPA in support of economically significant regulations between 2008 and 2011. Executive agencies are required by executive order to write RIAs that justify the provisions in economically significant regulations. RIAs drafted by EPA regularly cite numerous scientific publications to support specific provisions (e.g., the acceptable air level of sulfur dioxide).

We gather data on the publications cited in RIAs and examine several questions regarding research that informs federal environmental regulations. First, what information sources are cited by federal regulators in justifying new regulations (e.g., scientific literature, testimony, media outlets, laws, etc.)?  Second, do RIAs cite high impact research as evaluated through scientific citations. Third, are certain journals, authors, or authors affiliated with certain institutions cited disproportionately? Fourth, what sponsors support research that informs federal environmental regulation? Fifth, how recent is the research that informs environmental regulation? Answers to these questions offer important contributions to three distinct communities. First, we contribute to the scholarly understanding of the use of outside expertise in policymaking. Second, the results of our research are useful to researchers who intend to inform environmental policy, by understanding the nature of research the federal regulators cite. Third, our analysis will provide a reference to regulators to develop a broad-based understanding of the regularities in their use of scientific research.  Ultimately, the paper will help inform the understanding of how federal environmental regulations are developed and their relationship to scientific research.