The published research plans of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) have each been criticized by the Office of Technology Assessment for focusing largely on the development of technological “hardware” and giving little attention to socioeconomic research (broadly defined). This paper first examines socioeconomic research areas that EPA might be expected to cover and shows that its plans for doing so are inadequate. The paper then identifies gaps in ERDA's coverage of socioeconomic research that remain unfilled even in the agency's updated plan. Several reasons for this neglect of socioeconomic research are hypothesized, namely: the dominance of research management by scientists and technologists; the apparent irrelevance and/or lack of success of socioeconomic research performed in the past; the greater political acceptability of technological compared with non-technological approaches to pollution control: the public's apparent faith in our ability to develop technological solutions to energy and environmental problems; and the compatibility of new technology development with economic growth. Following a discussion of these reasons, it is concluded that senior management positions in both agencies must no longer be monopolized by those with solely scientific and technical backgrounds; instead, managers should be appointed who not only have appropriate social science or professional qualifications but are also able to communicate to their colleagues, to lawmakers, and to the public at large, the importance of having a balanced research program with both technological and socioeconomic components.


Urban, Community and Regional Planning



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