While there is increased interest among engineers and scientists to collaborate with environmental justice organizations (EJOs), and while there are well-known programs that facilitate collaborations between engineers, scientists, and underserved communities, little is known systematically about the engineering and scientific challenges faced by EJOs. We lay the foundation for such a systematic understanding through exploratory research in which we conducted 47 semi-structured interviews with EJO staff across the United States to ask what their engineering and scientific challenges to combating environmental injustice are. Using deductive-inductive coding we discover that EJOs are looking for support to engineering and scientific challenges that fit specific topical areas and methods. Using the words of our informants, we then unpack the qualitative themes of select topical areas (air quality, public and environmental health, fossil fuel infrastructure, clean and just energy transitions, environmental restoration, and indigenous groups) and methods (data collection, data dissemination, data analysis, spatial analysis, online platform building, networking of experts). We explore the patterns of how these themes overlap with five different strategies (policy change, utilizing the media, educating the public, providing legal advice, and developing collaborative projects) used by the EJOs in our study. We show that EJOs want to collaborate with engineers and scientists to solve technical problems, mitigate harm to their communities, and create positive futures. Our research informs the conception of strategic efforts to expand the impact of engineering and scientific work done to address EJ challenges, particularly given the limited resources that currently exist to support collaborative efforts in this space.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Building and Construction
- Environmental Science(all)
- Strategy and Management
- Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering