Penn State Intercom......June 21, 2001

$300,000 grant aids research
on environmental disputes

Barbara Gray, professor of organizational behavior and director of the Center for Research in Conflict and Negotiation in The Smeal College of Business Administration, and researchers from six other universities have received a $300,000 grant to continue research on environmental disputes from the California-based William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The Inter-University Consortium on the Framing of Intractable Environmental Disputes includes researchers from The Ohio State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Colorado, Texas A&M University, Cleveland State University and the University of Michigan.

Gray also coordinates the Environmental Consortium, which was formed in 1998 to study the dynamics that render some environmental conflicts intractable. The consortium also received a $300,000 grant from the Hewlett Foundation in 1998.

"During the past three years we have built a body of knowledge about the framing of environmental disputes. Framing refers to the way in which participants in a dispute interpret its meaning and scope," explains Gray. "Research on environmental disputes has shown that parties develop considerably different frames about what the dispute is about and what should be done about it and by whom."

Over the last two years consortium members have conducted extensive analysis of qualitative data on eight intractable environmental conflicts and have prepared a case study for each conflict. The case studies form the core of a book under development. The consortium envisions the next steps of its work to be focused on translations and dissemination of the research findings to environmental professionals, agency officials and other disputants, as well as the development of training programs and materials for these same groups.

The Hewlett Foundation was established in 1966 by the Palo Alto industrialist William R. Hewlett, his late wife, Flora Lamson Hewlett, and their eldest son, Walter B. Hewlett. The foundation concentrates its resources on activities in education, performing arts, population, environment, conflict resolution, family and community development, and U.S.-Latin American relations.