Mar 12, 2024 - Energy & Environment

How MIT's new climate center stands out

Illustration of a building in a city with a brain-shaped window

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

MIT's Sloan School is setting up a climate policy center that aims to produce policy-relevant research.

Why it matters: In federal, state and local circles, policymakers need information on faster timetables, and in more understandable formats, than in peer-reviewed studies.

Zoom in: The new school, established with a $25 million endowment, will employ professors and postgraduate students to produce policy-relevant research on shorter timescales, while also pursuing more typical, long-term peer-reviewed work.

  • For example, Christopher Knittel, who will direct the new MIT Climate Policy Center, and a graduate student were recently involved in completing an analysis of the Big WIRES Act put forward by Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) and Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.).

Between the lines: Knittel told Axios that too often, policy-applicable work lacks incentives for academics.

  • "Their job and their promotions are based on pushing the academic frontier of their discipline, and not necessarily translating that research into policy relevance," he said.
  • In this new entity, researchers will be evaluated on their policy engagement, which aims to be bipartisan, rather than strictly more typical academic achievements, Knittel said.
  • Policy metrics can be the number of briefs written and bills informed, along with the contact hours spent with lawmakers, Knittel said.
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