Bridging research and environmental regulatory processes: The role of knowledge brokers

Kelly G. Pennell, Marcella Thompson, James W. Rice, Laura Senier, Phil Brown, Eric Suuberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Federal funding agencies increasingly require research investigators to ensure that federally sponsored research demonstrates broader societal impact. Specifically, the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Superfund Research Program (SRP) requires research centers to include research translation and community engagement cores to achieve broader impacts, with special emphasis on improving environmental health policies through better scientific understanding. This paper draws on theoretical insights from the social sciences to show how incorporating knowledge brokers in research centers can facilitate translation of scientific expertise to influence regulatory processes and thus promote public health. Knowledge brokers connect academic researchers with decision-makers, to facilitate the translation of research findings into policies and programs. In this article, we describe the stages of the regulatory process and highlight the role of the knowledge broker and scientific expert at each stage. We illustrate the cooperation of knowledge brokers, scientific experts and policymakers using a case from the Brown University (Brown) SRP. We show how the Brown SRP incorporated knowledge brokers to engage scientific experts with regulatory officials around the emerging public health problem of vapor intrusion (VI). In the Brown SRP, the knowledge broker brought regulatory officials into the research process, to help scientific experts understand the critical nature of this emerging public health threat, and helped scientific experts develop a research agenda that would inform the development of timely measures to protect public health. Our experience shows that knowledge brokers can enhance the impact of environmental research on public health by connecting policy decision-makers with scientific experts at critical points throughout the regulatory process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11985-11992
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 5 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Bridging research and environmental regulatory processes: The role of knowledge brokers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this