Investigate the perceptions of environmental justice issues as an Atkinson Center-Environmental Defense Fund social and behavioral science intern in New York City.
The Office of Chief Scientist is the nexus of science at EDF, ensuring that the natural and social science that is the backbone for all EDF policy positions is based on the best available information. To be most effective in this role the Office of Chief Scientist provides programmatic support for all scientists at EDF and fosters relationships with scientists outside the organization. The OCS team works on projects across all of EDF's programs, translating natural and social science basic and applied research into actionable ideas for colleagues who are designing programs and projects.
The intern will work in one or both of the two projects described below:
1) Last summer, an undergraduate intern worked with EDF’s Social Science team to conduct a study exploring the effects of using an environmental justice frame on engagement with environmental issues. They found that highlighting the vulnerability of certain communities to
environmental pollution lead to negative stereotypes about polluted neighborhoods, as well as a lower willingness to take action on the issue. With findings like these in mind, EDF seeks to investigate not only how it can collaborate with disadvantaged communities, but understand
a. How the public perceives environmental justice issues, and,
b. How to communicate these issues to the general public, especially to environmental activists not attuned to issues of environmental justice and social inequalities.
This summer, the intern will work directly with EDF’s Social Science team to investigate these questions and will complete a minimum of one follow-up study and/or experiment investigating factors that may have accounted for the diminished environmental engagement in the former study.
2) EDF has begun an initiative to “mainstream environmentalism,” making environmental issues salient motivators of individual actions and of collective, political will. An integral part of the research backing this initiative concerns how environmental concerns and priorities vary across demographic groups (e.g. political affiliation, ethnicity, income), and how these priorities can be targeted in order to align environmental concern with political behavior. This summer, the intern will work directly with EDF’s Social Science team to investigate these questions, specifically with regard to the environmental concerns of 1) Trump supporters and 2) Latinos.
Why these two groups? Recent public opinion polls have revealed that Trump voters and supporters express notable levels of environmental concern and support for various environmental policies. Further, research conducted by EDF’s Social Science team and collaborators from Cornell and Pomona College has provided further evidence that minorities, in particular Latinos, hold especially strong levels of environmental concern. The intern will complete a minimum of one study and/or experiment on this topic that will be written up as a report for EDF.
The same research conducted by the intern can be used for a poster presentation at a scientific conference in the fields of psychology, communications, political science, environmental studies and others. The supervisors will assist the intern with preparation for such a submission.
Tasks will include but are not limited to:
- Researching relevant literature from psychology and communication, including but not limited to: framing effects, social desirability effects, intergroup-prejudice reduction, stereotyping of environmentalists, familialism, demographic shifts, and language preferences.
- Synthesizing empirical and theoretical findings from research literatures in psychology and communication studies.
- Managing and analyzing data in Excel and SPPS and programming surveys in platforms such as Qualtrics, mTurk, and SurveyMonkey.
- Monitoring the collection of data from online experiments.
- Working with the Social Science team on analyzing the data from the studies.
- Communicating findings to relevant EDF teams and helping build a strategy to diversify EDF's online activist groups.
- Providing support to the team in writing of reports and presenting of results to a broad audience with diverse academic backgrounds.