- What does RFF’s academic community look like?
- How does RFF promote academic collaboration?
- What are some examples of career paths taken by RFF researchers?
- How can researchers be involved in external academic opportunities?
- How can researchers engage in public service and the policymaking process?
- How can researchers contribute at RFF, outside of producing research papers?
- How does RFF support its researchers?
- Does RFF take institutional positions on public policies?
- How is RFF funded?
At RFF, you will find about 25 PhD colleagues engaged in environmental, energy, and natural resource policy research and analysis. Many university faculty members hold joint appointments at RFF or serve as visiting fellows at RFF. The work atmosphere is informal, much like a university. Daily work schedules are flexible. During any given week, RFF hosts both in-house seminars on current research and public seminars that convene high-level policymakers, the business community, and leading academics from around the world.
Researchers at all levels of experience are actively encouraged to initiate and develop creative ideas for research projects on their own or in collaboration with their colleagues. Collaboration and coauthorship are the norm—RFF researchers are able to focus on academic and policy issues in a noncompetitive setting that is characterized by active give-and-take among peers.
Starting an academic career at RFF provides a distinct advantage for those interested in both developing high-quality academic research and having an impact on public policy. RFF researchers work at the intersection of academics and policy in ways that affect both areas and offer researchers the flexibility to chart their own course. The following experts all began working at RFF shortly after receiving their doctorates and each has pursued a distinct career path.
Dallas Burtraw recieved a PhD in economics from the University of Michigan. He joined RFF in 1989 and has been the Darius Gaskins Senior Fellow. Dallas is one of the nation’s foremost experts on environmental regulation in the electricity sector. For two decades, he has worked on designing efficient and cost-effective methods for controlling air pollution. He is particularly interested in incentive-based approaches to environmental regulation and is known for his research on tradable permit systems. He has served on advisory boards to the National Academy of Sciences, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the states of California and New York, and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Dallas’s work has been published in the following academic journals, among others. He has also contributed to the Annual Review of Environment and Resources and the International Yearbook of Environmental and Resource Economics.
Carolyn Fischer has been at RFF since 1997, after earning a PhD in economics from the University of Michigan. In 2014–2015, she served as a Marie Skłodowska–Curie Fellow of the European Commission, visiting at Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM) in Venice, Italy. Her current research focuses on the interaction between international trade and climate policy, options for avoiding carbon leakage, and the implications for energy-intensive, trade-exposed sectors. She has served on the board of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists and on the editorial board of Resource and Energy Economics. In the areas of climate change and energy policy, Carolyn has published articles on designing cap-and-trade programs, fuel economy standards, renewable portfolio standards, energy efficiency programs, technology policies, the Clean Development Mechanism, and the evaluation of international climate policy commitments. Carolyn’s research has appeared in a variety of journals.
Richard Newell began at RFF in 1997 and focused his work on economic analysis of incentive-based policies, technological change, and the operation of markets. He was associate editor of Energy Economics and a reviewer for numerous public and private institutions, including the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the National Commission on Energy Policy, among others. While at RFF, he took a one-year sabbatical to serve as senior economist on energy, environment, and resources at the Council of Economic Advisers at the White House. In 2007, Newell was appointed Gendell Professor of Energy and Environmental Economics at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. From 2009 to 2011, he served as the administrator of the US Energy Information Administration, the agency responsible for official US government energy statistics and analysis. Newell was an adjunct professor at Duke University, where he was previously the Gendell Professor of Energy and Environmental Economics and Founding Director of its Energy Initiative and Energy Data Analytics Lab. He has also served as the senior economist for energy and environment on the President's Council of Economic Advisers and was a senior fellow, and later a board member, at RFF. Newell was appointed president of RFF in 2016.
William (Billy) Pizer, former RFF Senior Fellow, worked at RFF from 1996 until 2008, when he was appointed deputy assistant secretary for environment and energy at the US Department of the Treasury, where he coordinated the department’s domestic and international environment and energy agenda. Billy is now on the faculty at Duke University.
RFF researchers are recognized as top experts in their fields. Those who wish to teach can easily arrange to lecture or instruct classes at universities in the Washington area. RFF was one of the founding institutions that supported the creation of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists and remains a charter member of that organization.
RFF experts publish widely in the academic literature, including journals such as these:
- American Economic Review
- Journal of Political Economy
- Journal of Economic Theory
- Quarterly Journal of Economics
- Journal of Economic Perspectives
- Review of Economics and Statistics
- Journal of Public Economics
- Journal of Economic Literature
- RAND Journal of Economics
- Scandinavian Journal of Economics
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
- Health Economics
- Journal of Environmental Economics and Management
- Journal of Environmental Management
- American Journal of Agricultural Economics
- Resource and Energy Economics
- Energy Journal
- Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists
- Land Economics
- Environmental and Resource Economics
- Environment and Development Economics
- Natural Resources Journal
- Ecological Economics
- Journal of Policy Analysis and Management
- Journal of Urban Economics
- Journal of Regulatory Economics
- Journal of Risk and Uncertainty
- Journal of Law and Economics
- American Economic Journal: Economic Policy
Like a university, RFF prizes high-quality scholarship and designs the researcher career path to promote accomplishment. However, unlike a traditional academic institution, RFF affords its researchers the opportunity to actively engage with policymakers at the highest levels. The chance to make a palpable difference in the nation’s policy choices is considered a key reason why researchers choose to be a part of RFF.
RFF researchers regularly appear before various federal congressional committees, such as the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the Senate Committee on Finance, the House Committee on Ways and Means, and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, among others. RFF researchers also hold informal briefings with elected officials and staff, as well as workshops with agency administrators at federal, state, and local levels.
They are also routinely called upon for service in the federal government, including as senior staffers on the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers. For example:
- Joshua Linn served as senior staff economist on the Council of Economic Advisers during 2014 and 2015.
- Timothy Brennan served as the chief economist at the Federal Communications Commission in 2014.
- Richard Newell headed the Energy Information Administration from 2009 to 2011.
- Joseph Aldy served as the special assistant to the president for energy and environment from 2010 to 2011.
- William Pizer served as the deputy assistant secretary for environment and energy at the Department of the Treasury from 2008 to 2011.
- Shalini Vajjhala was appointed deputy assistant administrator for international and tribal affairs at the Environmental Protection Agency.
RFF researchers are frequently asked to serve on high-level honorary, advisory, and technical committees sponsored by federal agencies and organizations, including those below:
- Association of Environmental and Resource Economists
- Center for the Advancement of Energy Markets
- Inter-American Development Bank
- The Johnson Foundation
- National Academy of Sciences
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- National Regulatory Research Institute
- National Research Council
- National Science Foundation
- New Jersey Comparative Risk Project
- Project Learning Tree
- Resolve, Inc.
- Royal Society of Canada
- UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- US Department of Energy
- US Department of the Interior
- US Department of State
- US Environmental Protection Agency
- US Government Accounting Office
- World Bank
- World Health Organization
In addition to publishing academic discussion papers and issue briefs, RFF researchers have the opportunity to contribute to a number of RFF publications, such as these:
- Resources magazine: RFF’s flagship magazine features articles, interviews, analysis, and more.
- Common Resources: RFF’s blog features insights from RFF experts and contributors on ongoing research and current events.
- RFF on the Issues: RFF’s news tip sheet, which connects RFF research to current events, is distributed to Hill members and reporters and posted on Common Resources.
- RFF Connection: RFF’s monthly newsletter provides a summary of recent RFF research and events and is sent to a global list of stakeholders.
RFF researchers are also regularly quoted in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, National Public Radiov, Marketplace, the Associated Press, National Journal, Politico, USA Today, the Financial Times, US News & World Report, and a host of trade press publications.
About two-thirds of RFF researchers' time is funded through foundation and government grants. The balance is covered by RFF’s reserve fund and unrestricted contributions from corporations and other donors, which provides researchers with flexibility to develop new research areas for which there is not yet an external demand. RFF also often has internal competitions for funding, most notably through its New Frontiers Fund, which provides support for innovative new approaches to environmental economics problems.
During their first two years at RFF, researchers have substantially reduced fundraising expectations and are provided with significant mentoring opportunities for both writing grant proposals and journal articles. Senior RFF staff members often bring new researchers into existing projects and new proposals as part of this mentoring process.
RFF awards endowed chairs to its most accomplished scholars and the chairs fund additional discretionary time for research.
RFF strives to support its academic staff with not only research assistants and administrative help but also an experienced communications and editorial production team, an engaged and seasoned fundraising staff, a research library, and a robust information technology group. Researchers also receive professional skills training on how to better communicate with policymakers and the media.
RFF is independent and nonpartisan. It neither lobbies nor takes any institutional position on legislative, regulatory, judicial, or other public policy matters. Individual researchers, speaking for themselves and not for RFF, are free to express personal opinions and judgments on policy matters based on their research conclusions that may differ from those of other RFF experts, officers, and directors.
Because many RFF researchers are economists, there is a strong concern that public resources be spent wisely and that policy goals be achieved cost-effectively, with reliance on economic incentives where feasible. Researchers also have considerable interest in issues of fairness that arise from the distributional effects of policies and in issues related to the functioning of the policy process itself.
RFF shares the results of economic and policy analyses conducted at RFF with members of all political parties, environmental and business advocates, academics, the media, and interested citizens.
RFF operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax-exempt organization. The majority of RFF’s funding comes from individual contributions, foundation grants, corporate contributions, and government grants. RFF augments its income by an annual withdrawal from its reserve fund to support operations. Details are available in RFF’s annual reports.
RFF does not conduct private or proprietary research for any funder, business, or government entity. RFF publishes all research findings openly. To ensure research independence, RFF does not accept corporate gifts for individual research projects.