I am pleased to announce that Dave Ciplet won the Robert Dentler Award for Outstanding Student Achievement from the American Sociological Association Section on Sociological Practice and Public Sociology. Dave has made truly remarkable contributions to the field of public sociology and the sociology of practice, making an impact that I think would be the pride of most active full professors. His nomination package included policy briefings, scholarly articles, a description of community work and letters of support from the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island and the International Institute for Environment and Development for his work with the Least Developed Countries group in the UN climate change negotiations. These partners in community engaged work at the very local and the global level show the range and depth of Dave’s work and its impact. Parts of his nomination letter from me and Phil Brown follow.
Global Public Sociology
With a commitment to making a tangible impact on international climate change policy, since 2010 David Ciplet has been lead-author of eight reports published by organizations including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the International Institute for Environment and Development (based in London), and the Oxford Institute for Climate Policy (UK). These reports all address pertinent questions of global inequality through a sociological lens, and have had broad public impact. In a practice of engaged scholarship, on several of the reports he worked directly with lead negotiators for the Least Developed Countries (the 48 poorest nations on Earth). They have been widely cited by delegates in the U.N. negotiations, and featured in over 200 media outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Guardian, and International Herald Tribune. In 2012, Ciplet also co-wrote an op-ed and video published in The Guardian documenting the unequal impacts of climate change, in conjunction with the Chair of the Least Developed Countries negotiating group. This piece brings sociological focus on inequality into the realm of popular social media, linking suffering from climate-related disasters to global patterns of wealth and the very concrete policy issue of subsidies to the fossil fuel industries.
Moreover, Ciplet has engaged undergraduate students as co-authors in several of these research projects. As co-founder and co-leader of Brown’s interdisciplinary Climate and Development Lab (CDL) (climatedevlab.org), Ciplet has spent four years mentoring undergraduate and graduate students to inform a more just and effective global climate policy. He works with students to strengthen their analytical skills through a multi-disciplinary, but sociology-centered, approach. They engage with and contribute to real-world events, and in so doing shed light on the mechanisms of social and environmental inequality and on solutions that actually would make a difference. Dave has also led students to plan for, engage in, and reflect upon travel to the U.N. climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, Durban, South Africa, and Warsaw, Poland. In 2013, he lead-authored a reflexive article documenting this experiment in engaged education in the Journal of Sustainability Education.
Local Public Sociology
Dave Ciplet also engages in public sociology closer to home. For two years, as Research Assistant to Professor Phil Brown, he played a central role in the community engagement efforts for the Superfund Research Program, a $16 million federally-funded interdisciplinary research center on environmental contamination. Dave founded the CEC coordination team, a group of 12 undergraduate and graduate students that met regularly to coordinate numerous youth-focused environmental health and justice projects in the Providence community, mostly in collaboration the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island.
In addition to coordinating the activities of this group, David was actively engaged with the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island’s Healthy Corner Store Initiative, a program focused increasing access to healthy foods to low-income and racially diverse neighborhoods; the Community Environmental College, a summer environmental justice leadership program for Providence youth; and the Science Café, a regular evening event dedicated to building community literacy about environmental health issues. In all of these activities, Dave clearly enjoyed and thrived in the role of being a mentor figure to the other participants. He has played a key support role to the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island, including being the lead author of their $50,000 EPA Environmental Education grant, which they received among a highly competitive field of applicants. He also wrote a number of other grants, some of which have been received as well. Dave also worked as part of a team working to constructively support the efforts of a local EPA Superfund site (Centredale Manor) remediation effort. In this work, Dave worked with one of our community partners, the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, helping to further this academic-community partnership. Dave co-authored “Reflexive Research Ethics for Environmental Health and Justice,”for a special issues on ethics of Social Movement Studies. In that article he wrote about the ethical responsibilities of academics in community-engaged and community-based participatory research.