Request for Proposals: Retrospective Studies of Regulatory Performance

A research component of the Regulatory Performance Project at RFF

Short Pre-Proposals due March 1, 2018

(Invited) Final Proposals due May 1, 2018


For more than 60 years, Resources for the Future (RFF) has been a leader in economic analysis and regulatory and policy innovation for energy, environmental, and natural resource management. The Regulatory Performance Project seeks to strengthen the measurement of the outcomes of federal environmental regulation. RFF is soliciting research proposals that pursue creative new ideas for measuring actual effects, such as realized costs and benefits of federal regulation. In particular, the project is focused on investigations that would contribute to evaluations of alternative regulatory approaches.

Research Theme

RFF seeks applications for research and policy analysis on the performance of federal environmental regulations in the United States. Notwithstanding the extensive ex ante analyses conducted for new federal rules, relatively little is known about the actual performance of regulations. For instance, do they achieve substantial gains? If so, how do the realized gains compare with the anticipated gains? Are the realized costs in line with the expected costs?

In recent years, there has been increasing interest in the retrospective evaluation of federal regulation, including a series of presidential executive orders in both the Obama and Trump administrations promoting such analyses by federal agencies.1 Yet many challenges hinder development of reliable, comprehensive measures of the performance of regulations and regulatory programs. The available ex post analyses often focus on metrics such as inspections or audits rather than on outcomes more directly connected to human welfare. When retrospective analyses do adopt welfare-oriented outcomes, they often do so in ways that are subject to selection bias and fail to adopt a credible counterfactual baseline.

In a first phase of the Regulatory Performance Project, RFF sponsored nine new retrospective studies in the areas of food safety, air and water pollution, appliance efficiency, and natural resource management. In this second phase, we are limiting the focus to retrospective analyses of regulations issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Specifically, we seek proposals in two areas:

  1. Similar to the first phase of the project, we welcome new in-depth studies on the actual performance of individual (or groups of) rules, in this case, rules issued by the US EPA. Preference will be given to those proposals using particularly innovative methods or data sources.
  2. We also welcome new studies that examine the performance of different types of regulatory strategies, such as:
    • comparing the performance of market-based vs. traditional (command and control) regulation,
    • comparing the performance of different types of market-based approaches (taxes vs. emissions trading),
    • or evaluating the performance of information-based strategies (e.g., labeling) vs. mandatory regulation (i.e., traditional, command and control regulation and incentive-based approaches).

These examples are meant to illustrate but not limit the types of regulatory strategies that could be examined.


Selection of proposals will be based on the originality and scientific merit of the proposed research, compatibility with the research theme of this RFP, and the demonstrated research competence of the applicants. The project description should outline the plan of work and offer a discussion of its broader implications for federal environmental regulation.

Outreach and Dissemination

Grant recipients are expected to publish their research in both peer-reviewed journals and popular outlets.


Applicants must have demonstrated expertise in the relevant area of study.


The grant performance period is up to 12 months. The starting date is flexible, but applicants are urged to target a completion date no later than June 2019.


The application process is relatively simple and proceeds in two stages.

First Stage

The applicant submits a brief pre-proposal. The pre-proposal—to be sent by email as PDF files to and—must include the following:

  1. full name, title, and professional address (including telephone number and email address) of each investigator;
  2. the title of the project;
  3. a concise description (one page, single-spaced, or less) of the problem to be addressed by the project, the innovation offered by the project, and the anticipated products of the project (e.g., a journal article, report, monograph, etc.);
  4. a list of the major tasks involved in the project;
  5. the proposed dates for start and completion of the project; and
  6. a CV or brief statement of prior experience of the project leader.

Applicants are welcome to contact one of the principal investigators to discuss project ideas in advance of submission of a pre-proposal:

Second Stage

Final proposals will be invited after review by the principal investigators. Final proposals must be limited to five pages and should augment the information contained in the pre-proposal, including a more detailed description of the proposed research, anticipated contribution of the project, and a detailed outreach plan.


At present, $70,000 is immediately available to support up to two grants. Applicants are encouraged to leverage this funding with other sources, consistent with RFF’s policy on outside support (note that RFF does not accept corporate support for specific projects).


March 1, 2018: Pre-proposals due

March 15, 2018: Selected applicants notified to submit final proposals

May 1, 2018: Final proposals due

May 15, 2018. Award(s) announced

1 For example, see E.O. 13563, January 18, 2011; E.O. 13610, May 10, 2012; and E.O. 13777, February 3, 2017. The introduction to the Fall 2017 Regulatory Agenda also highlights the importance of retrospective review.