8:53 a.m., Feb. 4, 2016–CBEAR – the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research, which is operated jointly by the University of Delaware and Johns Hopkins University – is awarding more than $300,000 to 12 behavioral science projects that will examine the performance of various public policy approaches to agricultural-environmental problems.
The center completed its request-for-proposals process in September 2015. The selected projects aim to explain the complex human responses to agri-environmental policies implemented by government, with the goal of helping to design better public programs.
Kent Messer, co-director of CBEAR and the Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment at the University of Delaware, said, “In these outstanding proposals, the overriding question asked, and answered, is ‘What works?’ For example, does an existing subsidy for conservation of land actually result in a larger amount of land being preserved? If not, why not? What kind of incentive might work better?”
Paul Ferraro, co-director of CBEAR and Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School and Whiting School of Engineering, added, “The results of these funded research projects will be available within two years and can directly affect how agri-environmental programs are designed in the U.S. and globally.”
Many of the nation’s most pressing problems — climate change, droughts, floods, fires, polluted air and water, endangered species, shrinking agricultural and natural lands — have direct links to the intersection of agriculture and the environment.
The way governments tackle these problems is changing. In 2013, the Office of Management and Budget (Memo M-13-17) called for evidence-based policy design that relies on behavioral science and experimental techniques. Last September, an Executive Order by President Barack Obama noted that “a growing body of evidence demonstrates that behavioral science insights — research findings from fields such as behavioral economics… — can be used to design government policies to better serve the American people.”
CBEAR is leading efforts to use this new approach to solve the nation’s agricultural and environmental challenges. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, CBEAR supports science-based research nationwide and translates these results into useful guidance for administrators and policymakers to craft more effective programs.
To enrich the studies, the researchers are working with collaborators that include farming groups, local water conservation districts, nonprofit environmental organizations, and agencies such as the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Ferraro said, “CBEAR is excited to work with this talented group of researchers and their partners from across the country to address important agricultural and environmental problems using the best of the behavioral sciences and rigorous experimental designs.”
A full list of funded grants is below.