Brown Superfund Basic Research Program: A multistakeholder partnership addresses real-world problems in contaminated communities

Department of Sociology, Center for Environmental Studies, International Relations Program, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA.
Environmental Science and Technology (Impact Factor: 5.48). 08/2008; 42(13):4655-62. DOI: 10.1021/es7023498
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The NIEHS funds several basic and applied research programs, many of which also require research translation or outreach. This paper reports on a project by the Brown University Superfund Basic Research Program (SBRP), in which outreach and research translation teams collaborated with state regulatory agency personnel and community activists on a legislative initiative to mitigate the financial impacts of living in a contaminated community. The Environmentally Compromised Home Ownership (ECHO) program makes home equity loans of up to $25,000 available to qualified applicants. This collaboration provides a case study in community engagement and demonstrates how research translation and outreach activities that are clearly differentiated yet well-integrated can improve a suite of basic and applied research. Although engaging diverse constituencies can be difficult community-engaged translation and outreach have the potential to make research findings more useful to communities, address some of the social impacts of contamination, and empower stakeholders to pursue their individual and collectively held goals for remediation. The NIEHS has recently renewed its commitment to community-engaged research and advocacy, making this an optimal time to reflect on how basic research programs that engage stakeholders through research translation and outreach can add value to the overall research enterprise.

  • Environmental Justice 08/2012; 5(4):188-197. DOI:10.1089/env.2010.0021
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    ABSTRACT: Background: A research project that is only expert-driven may ignore the role of local knowledge in research, often gives low priority to the development of a comprehensive communication strategy to engage the community, and may not deliver the results of the study to the community in an effective way. Objective: To demonstrate how a research program can respond to a community research need, establish a community-academic partnership, and build a co-created citizen science program. Methods: A place-based, community-driven project was designed where academics and community members maintained a reciprocal dialogue, and together, successfully converted the basic findings into resources of direct use for the community members. Results: The co-created environmental research project produced new data and addressed an exposure route (consumption of vegetables grown in soils with elevated arsenic levels) that was not being evaluated in the current site assessment. Public participation in scientific research improved environmental health assessment, information transfer, and risk communication efforts. Furthermore, incorporating the community in the scientific process produced both individual learning outcomes (e.g. increased understanding of environmental science that informed their decisions) and community-level outcomes (e.g. community capacity). Conclusions: This approach illustrates the benefits of a community-academic co-created citizen-science program in addressing the complex problems that arise in communities neighboring a contaminated site. Such a project can increase the community’s involvement in decision-making and risk communication, which ultimately has the potential to help mitigate exposure and thereby reduce associated risk.
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    ABSTRACT: The characterization and remediation of contaminated sites are complex endeavors fraught with numerous challenges. One particular challenge that is receiving increased attention is the development and encouragement of full participation by communities and community members affected by a given site in all facets of decision-making. Many disciplines have been grappling with the challenges associated with environmental and risk communication, public participation in environmental data generation, and decision-making and increasing community capacity. The concepts and methods developed by these disciplines are reviewed, with a focus on their relevance to the specific dynamics associated with environmental contamination sites. The contributions of these disciplines are then synthesized and integrated to help develop Environmental Research Translation (ERT), a proposed framework for environmental scientists to promote interaction and communication among involved parties at contaminated sites. This holistic approach is rooted in public participation approaches to science, which includes: a transdisciplinary team, effective collaboration, information transfer, public participation in environmental projects, and a cultural model of risk communication. Although there are challenges associated with the implementation of ERT, it is anticipated that application of this proposed translational science method could promote more robust community participation at contaminated sites.
    Science of The Total Environment 08/2014; 497-498C:651-664. DOI:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.08.021 · 3.16 Impact Factor

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