In the days following the 2016 presidential election, I grew concerned about the impact of the new administration on environmental science, policies, and federal agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
As my concerns grew, I knew I had to act. With a dozen colleagues across the U.S. and Canada, I cofounded an organization called the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI).
Given some of the campaign rhetoric, we worried about the integrity of federal environmental agencies, including their environmental and climate data and other information.
We began monitoring the websites of environmental agencies. Since January 2017 we have observed and reported on shifts in descriptions of climate change and important environmental regulations, reflecting the new administration’s priorities.
EDGI researchers also organized the first “DataRescue” event at the University of Toronto in December 2016, with the goal of independently archiving important environmental and climate datasets.
In collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania’s Program in the Environmental Humanities, we coordinated over 30 other DataRescue events, which archived important federal environmental websites and datasets.
EDGI also embarked on an interview project with current and recently retired EPA career employees. Since December 2016, we’ve interviewed more than 60 employees. These transcripts provide an important window into the agency at a tumultuous moment
Moving forward, EDGI researchers are tackling broader questions about justice and sustainability in environmental and climate data.
My experience with EDGI has taught me the power of public-oriented social science research and reinforced my belief that people, working together, can make the world a better place.
Lindsey Dillon is an assistant professor of sociology who studies environmental justice.