Understanding the Equity and Justice Dimensions of Energy Policy Decisions

Understanding the Equity and Justice Dimensions of Energy Policy Decisions

Jan 05, 2022
On the Evidence podcast banner with profile image of Sanya Carley

Sanya Carley, the 21st recipient of the David N. Kershaw Award and Prize, discusses her research on energy policy decisions, including their equity and justice implications.

Sanya Carley’s research examines the effects of energy policies, including their equity and justice implications. In a new episode of On the Evidence, Carley discusses her increased interest in understanding the human element of energy policy decisions. Who makes policy decisions—and who is most impacted by those decisions?

“This is what got me interested in the topic of energy, equity, and justice,” Carley says in the episode. Much of her recent work seeks to draw attention to “…the haves and have-nots of our energy systems and how some individuals might deeply benefit from the decisions that we make…others might not have any access to those benefits, and some might disproportionately lose from the decisions that we make.”

Carley is a professor at the Paul O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, where she directs the Master of Public Affairs (MPA) and Online MPA programs. In the fall of 2021, she was selected to be the 21st recipient of the David N. Kershaw Award and Prize, which recognizes professionals younger than 40 who have made distinguished contributions to the field of public policy. Past winners include Kirabo Jackson of Northwestern University and David Deming of Harvard University. Jackson appeared as a guest of On the Evidence in 2020.

David Kershaw, for whom the award is named, was a founder and the first president of Mathematica. In the spring of 1979, he helped establish the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management, or APPAM. He died from cancer later that year at the age of 37. The award in his memory was created in 1983 and has since been jointly administered by Mathematica and APPAM.

In the episode, Carley discusses the origin story of her interest in energy policy, why she became interested in the equity and justice dimensions of energy policy, and how she ensures that her research influences decision makers.

Listen to the full episode below.

On the Evidence * Understanding the Equity and Justice Dimensions of Energy Policy Decisions | Episode 69

A version of the conversation with closed captioning is available on Mathematica’s YouTube channel here.

View transcript


If we were to institute a new supposedly clean energy policy, is it entirely perfect? Does it entirely benefit from everybody? Are there sacrifice zones? Are there places and people that might not benefit from it?


I’m J.B. Wogan and welcome back to On the Evidence, a show that examines what we know about today’s most urgent challenges and how we can make progress in addressing them.

For this episode, we’re going to feature an interview with Sanya Carley, a professor at the Paul O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.

Sanya directs the Master of Public Affairs Program and O'Neill Online MPA Program at the O’Neill school. The focus of her research is understanding the effects of energy policies, including their equity and justice implications. In the fall of 2021, Sanya was selected to be the 21st recipient of the David N. Kershaw Award and Prize. The award recognizes professionals younger than 40 who have made distinguished contributions to the field of public policy.

David Kershaw, for whom the award is named, was a founder and the first president of Mathematica. In the spring of 1979, he helped establish the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, or APPAM, before his death from cancer later that year at the age of 37. The award in his memory was created in 1983 and has since been jointly administered by Mathematica and APPAM.

Sanya is scheduled to give a lecture associated with the award at the APPAM research conference in March of this year.

In my interview with Sanya, we discuss the origin story of her focus on energy policy, why and how she became interested in the equity and justice dimensions of energy policy, and how she ensures that her research influences decision makers.

As regular listeners know, our previous episode featured a rundown of Mathematica’s growing portfolio of research related to climate change. In the show notes, I’ll link to that episode as well as a summary of our current efforts to inform decisions about climate change based on data and other rigorous evidence.

In 2022 and beyond, I expect we’ll feature more conversations about climate change and its wide-ranging effects, but hopefully this lays a good foundation for those future discussions.


Okay, well, I wanted to start by getting at the origin story of your work. Do you remember a moment when you became personally interested in energy?


The origin of my work. So, I grew up in Wisconsin, and I grew up spending a lot of time in the north woods of Wisconsin, and I was influenced by great thinkers like Aldo Leopold and others, and so I’ve just always had a proclivity towards the environment. When I was younger, I served on environmental groups and clubs, and led those. And it was when I was in college, at Swarthmore College, where I was leading the environmental group, and we were approached by a local -- Community Energy is what they were called. They were a local group that were selling credits for wind. And this was when wind was brand new, and no other colleges across the entire country had purchased credits for wind at this point. And I remember digging in and trying to learn about it. Learn about what wind energy was and what these funny credits were that don't actually come with any kind of tangible commodity. We just pay a lot of money, and, supposedly, wind somehow enters the electric grid and maybe, or doesn't funnel to the school.

And I remember being so incredulous at the time about why it was that wind would cost more than regular electricity, and it just did not make any sense to me, because wind is free; right? Wind just blows, and couldn't we just capture that? And so, it was in that process of learning about what a credit is, a commodity of wind is, and all of the various complex institutional and political and economic factors that are a part of those credits that I think I was really turned on to the idea of energy and pursuing an energy profession.


So, your research includes a focus on justice and equity. Do you mind sharing a little about why you're interested in those dimensions of energy and what specifically do you study with respect to justice and equity?


Let me begin by giving a little bit of background about the evolution of my career, my perspective on energy markets and energy justice, if that's helpful, and that is that, I mentioned becoming interested in energy, and I also, after that point, I studied energy markets. I also studied economics, economic development and then I worked with the World Bank, and I returned to graduate school, actually, deeply interested in thinking about development economics and the environment and energy. And I was trained in my PhD program and my Doctoral program with economics, using economic tools, and to think deeply about rigorous empirical analysis. And so, the majority of my research in my Doctoral program, as well as beyond my Doctoral program, then focused on energy policies, worldwide energy policies, as well as domestic ones, and measuring the effects, effectiveness and unintended consequences of these various energies’ policies.

And it was multiple years into my career where I found great satisfaction in this research. It was multiple years in, when I had written many papers using these empirical methods, and attended many conferences, and I just found myself yearning for something deeper, and yearning for a deeper understanding of not just, you know, the effect size, the marginal effect, but thinking about who is behind these decisions, who makes the decisions, and who is impacted by the decisions.

And so, if we were to institute a new supposedly clean energy policy, is it entirely perfect and does it entirely benefit everybody? Are there sacrifice zones? Are there places and people that might not benefit from it, that we overlook or we just assume there's some kind of compensation that we can provide for these communities? And this is what got me interested in the topic of energy, equity, and justice and thinking deeply about who are the haves and the have nots of our energy systems, and how some individuals might deeply benefit from the decisions that we make, but others might not have any access to those benefits, and some might disproportionately lose from the decisions that we make, such as residing next to polluting energy systems and have to breathe that in, and their children have to breathe that in, and affect them essentially, have the health consequences as a result. So that's what inspired me into the field of energy justice.


I know one of the things that you've been looking at is -- well, I guess you just alluded to it -- the people who might lose out, the people who might not deeply benefit from moving to clean energy. In the transition to low carbon resources, who is at risk of being left behind? And can you speak a little bit to your research on coal communities?


So we are, right now, in the process of an energy transition, and this is a transition moving from fossil fuel resources, heavy dependence on fossil fuel resources, to low carbon, more efficient and more advanced technologies. And this transition promises so many benefits to so many people. Most importantly, it can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and affect climate change. It can also help with air pollution and water pollution, and it can also help those communities that have actually borne the burden of pollution for so many decades.

But this transition also comes with other sacrifices, and it comes with downsides as well. And these downsides have to do with who has access to the new technologies that might bring cost savings for example, who has to bear the burden of the changes, such as who might lose their jobs. It also implicates who is allowed to be involved in decision-making processes and who is left out of these decision-making processes, who's allowed to lead and have their voices heard and who isn't. And it also implicates issues of what we call “recognition justice,” which is recognizing which communities in the past, have historically borne the challenges or burdens of our energy systems.

So, the question specifically about coal communities, I think, is a great one. So, when we think about energy transitions, we actually typically think about the term “just transition,” and a just transition means that we need to ensure that as we move towards cleaner energy resources, we make sure that there's justice for all. And one community that is very much on the front lines and I think in the front of our media coverage of the energy transition is coal communities. So, coal communities are those who have mined, traditionally mined coal, such as those communities in Appalachia and out West. It also includes those communities that operate coal power plants. And so, as we shut these power plants down, we demand less coal. And, as a result, the individuals that work within the coal industry lose their jobs. When these industries close and they lose their jobs, then these entire communities are affected. Oftentimes, coal communities are mono-economies where it is the only job that is available, or one of the only primary jobs, and when they lose their income, they can no longer spend money; for example, at the local restaurants. They cannot longer spend money on construction, for example, and so there are these secondary effects within these communities.

There are also many cultural effects, societal effects as a result within these communities as individuals lose their jobs, lose their income. It changes the dynamics of how a household brings in money, and it also changes the sense of belonging and cultural identity for these individuals who have worked in this industry for a very long time, worked in the communities that house these industries, as well as have generations upon generations of family members that work within the coal industry.


Recently, you studied some of the interplay between the pandemic and climate change on low-income households. Would you mind sharing some of your findings with respect to energy security?


I would be happy to talk about our work on energy and security and, in fact, I would say that the pandemic has really reaffirmed, for me, how important it is to focus on energy, equity, and injustice, and the same communities who have suffered the most from the pandemic, those frontline workers, those who have gotten sick from Covid, those who have lost their jobs are really the same who have experienced greater energy hardship during the pandemic, and, in particular, these are households of color and low-income households.

So, at the onset to have pandemic, we recognized, our research team recognized that energy insecurity is pervasive, a major problem within the United States and it's likely to get much worse as households were forced to essentially become isolated and stay at home with children at home, with E-learning devices on, with electricity consumption probably being displaced and much higher residential sectors than it was in commercial sector, and that all of these problems could make households really suffer and unable to pay their energy bills. So that actually is what energy and security is. It's defined as the inability for its household to provide for its basic energy needs. And you might be unable to provide for it because you can't pay your energy bills or it might be because you're disconnected from your service by your service provider, so you actually have no electricity or no natural gas at all.

So, over the course of the past year-and-a-half, we were able to follow about 2,000 low-income households, and these are households, a representative sample of those within 200 percent of the federal poverty line, and we follow these households at four different points in time and surveyed them and asked them questions about how they were doing, who was in their household, how they were paying their energy bills, whether they were disconnected from their service providers, what kind of coping strategies were they using to keep their bodies warm, and other conditions of their household. You know, is their AC unit working? Is their HVAC unit working? Do they have holes in the walls, these kinds of questions.

And from these surveys, we've been able to essentially take a pulse on how willing some households across the United States are faring with energy insecurity. And what we've found is that millions of households struggle from energy insecurity, and that this problem did become worse during the pandemic, especially within the first six months or so of the pandemic, and this is despite many states actually putting temporary protections in place so that customers weren't allowed to be disconnected.

We also find that within these millions who are energy insecure that there are certain groups that are significantly more vulnerable, and these groups include low-income households; households with small children; households with poor housing conditions, that might be like a AC unit or a refrigerator that doesn't work; households with electronic medical needs; that is, there are people within the household that actually need electricity in order to provide some kind of medical device; and, in particular, households of color; that is, households that identify as black or Hispanic. And, in fact, we find that we find that black households are three times as likely to be disconnected or were three times less likely to be disconnected over the course of the pandemic than white households. And Hispanic households were four times as likely to be disconnected from their service providers over the last year.


I read a recent article that you and one of your co-authors published where, at the end, you made some recommendations. You not only shared these findings, which are really important and concerning, but also some next steps for policymakers. Would you mind sharing some of the things that you think policymakers could do to address energy security right now during the pandemic? And if I'm correct, if I read it correctly, these are things that perhaps, at least some of them, might have utility beyond the pandemic as well.


There are so many things that policymakers can do to help protect these vulnerable populations. In the piece that we published recently, we talked specifically about the importance of temporary protections, and that might be temporary utility disconnection moratoria, where a given state or the federal government says no utility within our jurisdiction is allowed to disconnect an individual. And I think that these temporary protections are even more important during cold winter months when households are unable to keep their bodies warm. So, these are immediate things that can be done.

We also have long-standing disconnection protections that exist within every single state, and states can improve these policies. There are so many ways to improve the vulnerable populations within a state by, for example, making the temperature thresholds a little bit lower or higher to make sure that, on any given, if there is an extreme spike in temperature, it becomes way too hot or way to cold, that households are protected. Or to reduce the administrative burden for these households. So, some of these protection stipulations are just so specific, and the consumer needs to know all of the details about how they're protected. So, for example, somebody might need to have a prior note from a medical provider, or they might have to have very specific documentation that shows that they're a household with small children, or any number of other specifications that they need to know that they can't be disconnected so long as they have all of these materials. So, there's many ways that states and the federal government can improve in tightening protections for consumers.

But there are also so many other things that we can do to help these vulnerable households. And I should note that energy insecurity, it's really a chronic problem. This is a cycle that households often get into, and it becomes perpetual. So once they are unable to pay their bills once, then they might become disconnected, and then they might have more debt. And once they're finally reconnected, they might owe other people money for helping pay for their bills, and then they're further in debt, which then leads to additional energy insecurity and further disconnection.

So, one thing that we can use government levers for is to help prevent households from entering this chronic cycle. And a great way to do so is providing services such as weatherization assistance, where we help essentially improve the energy efficiency and the sealing of one's home, like sealing doors and sealing windows to prevent drafts and to make sure that the home is warm enough in the wintertime. So, we can help. We can put more money towards weatherization. We can expand this kind of program. We can also put more money towards clean energy technologies that households can have. So, for example, if a household puts a solar panel on its roof or has a storage option within its house, it might be able to generate its own electricity, and, therefore, owe less to its utility provider and avoid the problem of disconnection.

There are other techniques as well. LIHEAP, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program is a program that provides funding to households once they are energy insecure. So, it provides resources that they can use to pay down their energy bills, and as a result of putting money towards LIHEAP, these households may be better able to put money towards medical expenses or food, for example, and avoid the heat or eat dilemma.

Other things we can use government resources for include debt relief. So once a household is disconnected and it faces significant debt to their service provider, the government can give some kind of debt relief or they can funnel it through the utilities, which provide it to the customers so that customers are able to pay off their bills and essentially break that chronic cycle of energy insecurity.


So, you're applying an economics background to understand the problems related to energy security and how to provide solutions. What role do you think economists and social scientists in general should play in addressing energy? And I don't know if we've actually said the words climate change yet in this interview, but it is looming in the back of my mind, so coming up with solutions related to climate change.


Well, I think the situations of climate change and energy justice should be a situation of all-hands-on deck. And I think that we should ensure, as a research community, that we get bigger and bigger and more diverse and more representative of the broader population, and that we should listen to all voices and uphold all voices.

Thinking about climate change specifically and the role of researchers, I think it's important to note that, whether we like it or not, climate change will affect, if it hasn't already, all of our lives, as well as all of our professions, and we can no longer budget for the future for example, without considering climate change, and we can no longer plan our health systems without considering climate change, and we can no longer build educational curricula without considering climate change, or assess student performance without accounting for the pollution that children are exposed to in their home environments. And we can no longer study material hardship without recognizing that climate change will make it worse and that utility hardship is, in fact, one of the most pressing forms of all material hardship, and the list goes on. And so I just think, whether we want to or not, I think we will all, at least tiptoe into the world of climate change in future years, and that that is a welcome addition, because as many people as we can involve in these decisions the better.


I couldn't help but notice that in your research about energy insecurity that there were clear tie-ins to a lot of areas that Mathematica has worked on historically around food insecurity, education, health, and you talked about the medical devices, which would require being able to plug in and get energy, food perishing in a fridge if you didn't have access to electricity, remote E-devices in this time of remote learning. So, it's interesting to me how interconnected all these different health and social policy areas are, how they can all be tied back to energy.


Yeah, I think that's right. I think that an energy scholar does not just know energy. They have to understand all of these other dimensions, these social equity issues, these educational policy issues. They need to understand housing in particular and how all these things are interrelated. And just coming to your point about the importance of energy, I mean, energy is a basic need. And, in fact, it's even more than a basic need, I would argue that it's an enabling need, that everybody needs, in order to provide access to other things or in order to ensure that they can access other basic needs. So, for example, if you don't have access to energy, you can't provide -- you have no electricity, you can't run your fridge; right? You can't power your phone. You can't access the internet. You can't plug in your children's e-learning devices or your grandparent who is living with you, or your spouse’s medical devices. So it's absolutely fundamental for health purposes. It's also helpful if you don't have access to the refrigerator for example, you can't eat healthy food. You can't keep perishable food. So, there's so many of these very important complex challenges associated with providing energy as a basic need.


In another podcast I listened to recently, you were asked to leave the audience with a sense of optimism, something positive, and what you talked about was the great work that your students had done, students who would be graduating from, the MPA program, where you're a director at Indiana University's Master of Public Affairs Program, the work that they would be doing around climate and energy. How have you sought to incorporate climate change into the program's curriculum so it's part of their education, it's something they're prepared to work on once they graduate?


So, as the program director of the Master of Public Affairs Program at the O’Neill School, I have worked with colleagues over the past two years to completely revamp our core curriculum, and we are so excited to roll it out. Actually, it starts in the fall of 2022. And what we've done is we have increased the focus on major societal challenges, such as social equity and justice, and diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, and climate change. So, our new core curriculum involves these topics. Some of them are spread throughout all of our courses. We also have a very specifically tailored course. One core course on social equity and justice is one of the first programs in the country to offer this. We also have an increased emphasis on leadership and how to be a leader during these very difficult times, as well as an emphasis on the policy process and understanding how the policy process works and what are the different ways to be involved or to use different levers through the policy process.


And you said fall of 2022, but are they already taking some kind of climate change-related curriculum? Is there any way that they are currently being exposed to ideas around energy security, climate change, the environment?


Yeah. We offer so many classes on those exact topics. So, we are really unique and special school, in that we have both an environmental science side and a public affairs side, so we’re all under one roof. We're all social scientists and scientists together, and, as a result, we have this very integrated environmental and sustainability and climate change program essentially, that evolved out of that integration. So, we offer just tons of courses on those topics. We have a concentration in energy. We have coursework on energy policy, on energy justice. We have coursework on climate change and natural resources and resource management. So, we have many of these types of courses, including courses on social equity and justice as well, as an aside.

In fact, I'm teaching a class on energy, policy, and justice, and it's a seminar class, and it’s a Master's level and PhD-level class and discussion-based where we come together and discuss all of the various dimensions of energy, justice, and how they fit into our energy policy world. And, as a result, or as part of this process over the past year, I have worked with my students to develop a podcast. And we are co-hosting this podcast together, and it's called "Just Energy, and we're releasing it very soon, in January. So, stay tuned.

And the objective here with the podcast is to focus on people, so focus on the human stories of energy, justice, and to think about the dimensions of energy justice, as well as uphold and really improve or expand the opportunity to hear from voices of individuals that work within this field, so we're featuring really exceptional guests such as the amazing Jackie Patterson, who just won the prestigious Heinz Award, and Tony [Reames], who is helping the Biden Administration right now with their justice work initiative.


That's a nice segue for my next question, which is, I wanted to ask about how you're working to ensure that your research is influencing policy and public debate, and maybe the why behind that as well. But it seems like this podcast, and, of course, your teaching are the two answers to that. But, yeah, what kinds of activities do you do to make sure that the work doesn't end with a peer-reviewed journal publication?


So, I believe it is incredibly important personally that when I do research, that it has some kind of broader implication and it can help make a difference. And oftentimes, being a public policy scholar, that means that I am influencing or attempting to speak directly to decision-makers and policymakers. And so, for each body of work that I work on, I attempt to speak directly to those decision makers in some way, and it depends on the project as to what that method is.

So let me just give a brief overview of some of my bodies of work and how I have attempted to speak to policymakers or influence policy in those ways. So, I mentioned earlier that I focus on energy policies, and these are specifically policies within electricity and transportation markets, and I study the effects of these policies, the effectiveness and the unintended consequences. And here in my work, I attempt to speak to policymakers, specifically at the state level, about how they can design clean energy policies. So, for example, I've worked with several states on the design of their renewable portfolio standard, and this is essentially a stipulation that utilities within the state need to procure a certain amount of their energy from renewable energy sources. So, for example, it might be we need 25 percent clean energy or renewable energy by the year 2030.

So, within the space, as I've noted, I've worked with these states to help them figure out how to design it, what lessons they can learn from other states, and what the implications might be for very specific outcomes that they seek to achieve, such as if they want more solar generation in their state or more wind generation in their state as a result.

A second line of my research focuses on consumer and citizen perceptions of energy technologies and infrastructure, so that is, how do we think about, for example, electric vehicles, or how do we think about transmission and distribution lines, or a new power plant or a new solar farm that might be placed within our community, or even within our backyard? And here, I sought to identify what barriers need to be addressed through policy and through business innovation to help perpetuate the diffusion of these clean energy technologies. And, oftentimes, this means speaking directly to policymakers and encouraging a focus on innovation and business development, as well as encouraging a focus on the behavioral dimensions, heuristics that individuals might use to conceive of the different energy technologies that might be placed near them.

I've also encouraged, along with colleagues, a more open-minded view of why people might protest or might be opposed to different energy technologies. I think it's very easy for us to quickly assume NIMBYism, not in my backyard sentiment, by any kind of local community that might need to house a new infrastructure project for example. But in our work, we attempt to explain what it means for somebody to object to something locally, and to explain that this is actually a very rational set of decisions that are being made about their local environment or their property values, for example.

In a third space, as we have talked about quite a bit, I focused on equity and justice, and I talked a lot about different dimensions of my research here. But other dimensions that I focus on include identifying who is on the frontlines of the energy transition, who are those vulnerable populations, and what do they have to lose, and how can we benefit them. So, in this space, I've worked with colleagues to help draft presidential climate and energy plans. I've worked with staffers to provide insight on legislation, infrastructure legislation and other legislation. I have worked with foundations to draft strategic initiatives for them to support more work in the space, and policymakers to understand the importance of these issues and ways that they can actually track these issues on a more regular basis through data-gathering efforts and with the national labs to build the expertise and expand our modelling capabilities to incorporate a deeper consideration of equity issues. So, for all of these different projects, there are different stakeholders, and there are different ways that I have worked to attempt to positively influence decision-making.


And I've noticed with this most recent batch of research on energy insecurity during the pandemic that there's earn media, you talk to reporters and are quoted in stories. There's the op-ed that you're submitting. You're active on Twitter a well I’ve noticed. You have a social media presence. For other researchers who are interested in engaging with non-research audiences and want to get the word out about their work, do you have a good habit or a tactic that you would recommend they try?


I thought about this question a lot, given that I also mentor Doctoral students. And I'm always questioning when the best time is to provide this kind of information and to encourage them to have a sense for how to communicate with other audiences. I think it's important just to have a sense early on, but to evolve into that role as they develop their voice. But the things that I would identify that it takes to be able to speak to these other audiences are multiple.

One, I think practice and training to learn how to communicate in a different way, not just through a peer-reviewed article that could be very dry and very academic and very jargony for certain audiences, so thinking about how to communicate to other audiences, including through verbal communication, to the media for example. I think it takes perseverance and extra time and care for any given project. You're not done once you publish the article. That's where it really begins in terms of the time commitment for pushing the ideas, for trying to get the right people on the line to talk to them, to pitching it to media, so many different elements of things getting to these decision-makers takes a lot of time and care.

I think it also takes creative ways of presenting information, so, for example, in some of our work, we’ve created infographic, or oftentimes, these days, we create really short reports that summarize what we have found in our peer-reviewed work or writing an op-ed, so taking a very strong kind of argument stance and putting it out to the general public. I think it involves having the right collaborators. In fact, I would say this is the best thing about academia, is that you get to choose your collaborators. And I tend to join forces with those who are equally enthusiastic about making a difference and also have a diverse skillset that can complement my own so that we can collectively reach a broader audience and a more diverse audience with our work.

I think it also takes an amazing network of scholars, practitioners, and policymakers, that it is important to continually build over time. And the last one, I think, is, it also takes the willingness to assume a research stance or take a research design that might not be your favorite. And so, this has been one of the more challenging things for me. As I noted in the beginning of our discussion, I tend toward empirical methods, tend toward qualitative causal inference. And with this energy justice work, the data oftentimes just don't exist, and oftentimes, the story is about the people, the people who are being sacrificed to, for example, make some kind of decarbonization decision. And so, with this work, I oftentimes have to interview people and use qualitative data or assess or assemble a whole bunch of different types of data sources in order to tell a story, and this isn't necessarily the most comfortable for me or the most fun for me, but I think that being flexible and being willing to try out different approaches in order to tackle very specific imminent questions is what's needed.


You are actively pitching. I think that is -- I don't know -- I wouldn’t say unique, per se, but I don't think everyone who is publishing social science research or economics research is taking that next step of sort of putting on their communications hat and thinking about dissemination tactics and how to make sure that publication is the beginning not the end of the process.


That's right. And it's hard.


Is it worth it? Do you feel like you've had some success stories from those engagements that have encouraged you to keep doing this?


I think it's infinitely worth it. I don't think that I would be happy with a job of just publishing papers. You know, the papers, I believe in them and I believe in the methods and I believe in the findings, but I don't think that that is enough to move the needle, and I am far more satisfied when I believe that there is some kind of difference that's made. And I don't want to claim that I'm making a bigger difference than I am. I think that it's very small incremental steps here and there, but that they all add up. And when you can actually see the difference in the decision that a policymaker might make; for example, about whether to collect new data or whether to include something in a bill, I think that that is a major accomplishment and makes me feel proud of the work that I do.


Thanks to my guest Sanya Carley. In the show notes, I’ll include a link to Sanya’s Google Scholar page and Twitter handle, as well as an op-ed she co-authored for The Hill about the crisis of energy insecurity. As always, thank you for listening to another episode of On the Evidence, the Mathematica podcast. To stay up-to-date on future episodes, subscribe. We’re available pretty much wherever you find podcasts. You can also follow us on Twitter. I’m @JBWogan. Mathematica is @MathematicaNow.

Want to hear more episodes of On the Evidence? Visit our podcast landing page or subscribe for future episodes on Apple Podcasts, YouTube, or SoundCloud.

Show notes

Explore Sanya Carley’s research on Google Scholar.

Follow Carley on Twitter.

Read an op-ed by Carley and her co-author David Konisky about the crisis of energy insecurity in The Hill.

Learn more about Mathematica’s efforts to support the design of solutions that help our partners address the multi-sectoral challenges posed by climate change.

Listen to an interview with Adam Coyne, who oversees international research at Mathematica, as he discusses our growing portfolio of work on climate change.

Learn more about the David N. Kershaw Award and Prize.

Carmen Ferro, a senior manager of public affairs at Mathematica, draws from her years of experience collaborating with researchers to share 10 ways to extend the reach of policy research.

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J.B. Wogan

J.B. Wogan

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