I am currently a visiting scholar with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). As a research assistant professor at George Mason University, I have been interested in the ways in which communities interpret scientific information and bring experience, values, and local knowledge to bear in making policy choices.

Scientists themselves can play diverse roles in these processes. In a study with AAAS and University of Michigan, we are exploring the contexts that serve as either opportunities or barriers in the use of science by Congressional policy staff. In a project on civic science, I am investigating the ways in which scientists contribute to community problem-solving at the local scale to identify potential societal benefits and current obstacles.

Local and regional decision-making is particularly relevant for climate adaptation, my primary topical area of expertise. Collaborating with underserved communities is an important component of local decision-making processes, especially under conditions where these audiences are likely to experience heightened exposure to environmental risk with fewer resources to adapt. A spring 2016 pilot project in three Baltimore neighborhoods and Prince George’s Glassmanor-Oxon Hill community seeks to inform these types of discussions.

My research spans topics such as science communication for policy, community resilience, sea level rise policy preferences, climate change health risk perceptions of communities particularly at risk, deliberative processes, and program evaluation. I have published in Environmental Science & PolicyNature Climate ChangeClimatic Change, and Global Environmental Change.


Karen Akerlof