could improve environmentally important decisions regardless of whether the decision makers are government agencies, private companies, other organizations, or individuals. It was to focus, however, on the social and behavioral sciences other than economics because they have not received much attention from decision-making organizations, and to define research areas that would build on strengths in these sciences and link them with each other, with economics, and with the natural sciences so as to produce a deeper understanding of environmental issues. We understood the relevant social and behavioral sciences to include the traditional disciplines of anthropology, geography, political science, psychology, and sociology as well as various associated interdisciplinary fields, such as decision science, communications research, policy sciences, human ecology, and science and technology studies. Thus, we did not consider recommending priority research areas that we judged to fall primarily in economics, regardless of how well those areas might score against the decision criteria we used. This report has two main audiences: potential researchers and potential research sponsors.
The National Academies were asked to recommend research areas that score well as measured against three criteria: the likelihood of achieving significant scientific advances, the potential value of the expected knowledge for improving decisions having important environmental implications, and the likelihood that the research would be used to improve those decisions. They were also asked to consider recommending ways to overcome barriers to the use of research that would have high priority if such barriers could be overcome and invited to make general recommendations for infrastructure that could increase the likelihood that the recommended knowledge across several fields will be used.
The National Academies organized the study under the auspices of its Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change, which has since 1989 advised federal agencies on research issues in the area of human-environment interactions and has produced several previous reports identifying promising research directions (National Research Council, 1992, 1994b, 1999b). The committee participated in selecting the membership of the panel and in reviewing this report. Panel members were selected to include expertise from across the social and behavioral sciences, with strong representation of researchers grounded in these disciplines who are engaged in studying environmental issues. Members also include individuals with backgrounds in the environmental natural sciences and engineering, experience in governmental and private organizations whose decisions have sig-