Frequently Asked Questions about Research Life at RFF

  1. What does RFF’s research community look like?
  2. How is RFF organized?
  3. How is RFF’s research agenda established?
  4. What is it like to work at RFF?
  5. How does RFF promote research collaboration?
  6. How are RFF researchers involved in academic opportunities?
  7. How can researchers engage in public service and the policymaking process?
  8. How do RFF researchers disseminate their work, in addition to producing research papers?
  9. Does RFF take institutional positions on public policies?
  10. How is RFF funded?

1. What does RFF’s research community look like?

At RFF, you will find about 55 PhD colleagues and other researchers engaged in environmental, energy, and natural resource policy research and analysis. In addition, many university faculty members hold joint appointments at RFF or serve as visiting fellows at RFF. The work atmosphere is informal and collegial. Daily work schedules are flexible. RFF often 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.

2. How is RFF organized

RFF is located in Washington, DC, and the breadth of our geographic reach encompasses programs around the world. First and foremost, RFF is a community of scholars who care about impact, where there is unparalleled opportunity to do research and analysis in environmental economics that has real world applications for decisionmaking. Our work is highly collaborative, with many of our researchers coauthoring academic articles and other research publications.

RFF’s research staff is organized in two programs, with diverse but interconnected research emphases to maintain a strong focus on the most pressing environmental, energy, and natural resource concerns of our time. RFF researchers affiliate with one of the programs but can work on topics associated with the other program, as appropriate.

3. How is RFF’s research agenda established?

RFF’s research agenda is established through its two programs. Each year the program vice presidents lead processes with the researchers to set research, outreach, and fundraising priorities for the coming year. These processes are collaborative and require the involvement and input of all research staff, as well as RFF’s communications and development teams. In addition, individuals at all levels of experience are actively encouraged to initiate and develop creative ideas for research projects. RFF’s research agenda must ultimately address RFF’s mission and attract external interest and support. Given the substantial, continuing policy interest in the issues RFF addresses, this approach has succeeded over many decades.

4. What is it like to work at RFF?

RFF’s working atmosphere is informal and collegial. During any given week, we have in-house seminars on research and external public seminars convening high-level policymakers, the business community, and experts from other institutions.

The dress code is typically casual, with the exception of public and certain external meetings. Employee benefits are generous, from health and life insurance, retirement programs, and pre-tax commuter and daycare assistance to free coffee, newspapers, and numerous online publications, in addition to many journals.

In addition to access to high-quality research assistants, a professional development staff supports fundraising efforts. A professional communications staff not only helps edit and finalize work for publication, but also works with individual researchers to help them better communicate their work. There is a small, staffed library with interlibrary loan capability and a proactive IT department that supports research needs.

5. How does RFF promote research collaboration?

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 research and policy engagement in a noncompetitive setting that is characterized by active give-and-take among peers.

6. How are RFF researchers involved in academic opportunities?

RFF researchers are recognized as top experts in their fields, routinely engaging in professional conferences, workshops, peer review, and other scholarly activities. 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 prizes professional development of its staff and sets aside resources for that purpose. It’s fellows and senior fellows publish widely in peer-reviewed literature, including journals such as:

7. How can researchers engage in public service and the policymaking process?

Like a university, RFF prizes high-quality scholarship and designs the researcher career path to promote accomplishment. In addition, RFF researchers have the opportunity and support to actively engage with policymakers at the highest levels. The chance to make a palpable difference in the nation’s policy choices is 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, as special assistants to the president, and as agency heads, assistant or deputy assistant secretaries, and chief economists at federal agencies.

RFF researchers are also frequently asked to serve on high-level honorary, advisory, and technical committees sponsored by a wide variety of institutions, including many federal agencies, the National Academy of Sciences, professional economics associations, international and multilateral development organizations, foundations, research institutes, and other nongovernmental organizations.

8. How do RFF researchers disseminate their work, in addition to producing research papers?

In addition to publishing research working papers, issue briefs, journal articles, and reports, RFF researchers contribute to a number of RFF publications, such as:

RFF researchers are also regularly quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, Marketplace, the Associated Press, National Journal, Politico, USA Today, the Financial Times, US News & World Report, and a host of trade press publications.

9. Does RFF take institutional positions on public policies?

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.

10. How is RFF funded?

RFF operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax-exempt organization. The majority of RFF’s funding comes from government and foundation grants and individual and corporate contributions. 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.