In the US, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is the cornerstone of environmental policy and law and an essential governance strategy for addressing emerging, 21st century social, environmental, and economic challenges. Every year, to comply with NEPA, federal agencies produce detailed assessments of these challenges known as Environmental Impact Statements (EIS). At least 37,000 such reports, comprehensive in scope and hundreds to thousands of pages each, have been produced since 1970. However, the potential of NEPA is currently undermined by an inability to evaluate the EIS process, its impacts, or make recommendations for improvement based on generalizable data.
Data arising from EIS processes are virtually inaccessible to scientists and the public because there is no central knowledge platform to access and search these data and no tools to extract and associate natural language data. Our multi-disciplinary team of researchers is developing pilot decision-support tools—using advances in data science and natural language processing—to evaluate the role of environmental review and public participation.
National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant #1831551 | $1.5 million (September 2018-August 2021) “RIDIR: Collaborative Research: A Data Science Platform and Mechanisms for Its Sustainability”