Issues of environmental contamination are complex. There is often a striking disconnect between those who live in and around contaminated zones, those who know that such an arrangement poses a problem, and those who are ultimately responsible for directing clean-up efforts. For the last decade, the Brown Superfund Research Program (SRP) has been working to bridge these divides.
The Brown SRP fosters partnerships between representatives from academic, government, and community spheres in order to more effectively address environmental health and remediation concerns in Rhode Island. The program is comprised of four research projects and six “cores,” or teams, that tackle different aspects of these contamination issues.
Scott Frickel, IBES Fellow and Associate Professor of Sociology, was recently appointed as leader to the program’s Community Engagement Core, an arm of the SRP that works on multiple levels to engage involved parties in environmental health and justice issues. As Core Leader, he will oversee the team’s outreach, education, and communication efforts at Brown, in the community, and with a variety of environmentally-focused state and federal agencies. Frickel says the team’s work will include conducting neighborhood surveys, designing community-based research projects, concentrating efforts to increase funding and resources for at-risk communities, and much more.
Frickel, an environmental sociologist, is also committed to exploring the sociology of science and technology, an endeavor that lends itself well to analysis of research projects such as the Brown SRP. “I am very interested in studying the program itself, as a knowledge system,” he says. “In a way, I’m interested in studying my colleagues… to watch what they’re doing and who they’re talking to and how they’re developing research questions, and how that information, the knowledge that they’ve produced is or isn’t making its way into communities, into policy domains, into the private sector.”
Frickel’s colleagues include three other IBES Fellows: Superfund Director Kim Boekelheide, Biomedical project leader Agnes Kane, and Engineering project leader Robert Hurt. The SRP has just been funded for another five year term, during which time researchers will attempt to tackle issues of regulatory uncertainty.