One of the first things EDGI did was to launch a project of confidentially interviewing long-time employees at EPA and OSHA (mainly EPA, and primarily retired employees, including some people who started working at EPA when it was first formed in 1970), to illuminate the human side and historical context of the current political transition and its effects on federal agencies. Trained interview teams in Washington DC, Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area, New Jersey, Colorado, and Vermont began confidentially interviewing long-term EPA and OSHA employees in December 2016, and since then have conducted 58 interviews. These interviews provide a human and more nuanced perspective on the impacts of the current administration on environmental agencies. They also provide historical context that enable us to better analyze and evaluate the present moment.
Northeastern University provides the master IRB coverage, and other universities have acceded to that coverage. All interviews are confidential, and unless the interviewee specifies otherwise, the transcript is de-identified. Our research team has developed rigorous procedures for securely storing the audio files and interview transcripts. EDGI researchers also share files and communicate with an end-to-end encryption program to maintain confidentiality.
We organized on-line training sessions to show interviewers our approach and protocol, and to harmonize the interview process. We also developed a codebook for analyzing the interviews, incorporating new members of the team who have helped on the analysis. That codebook guided analysis so far for EDGI’s upcoming “100 Days Report” on the Trump administration’s effects on environmental agencies and policy, and it will be used in greater detail for subsequent analyses after additional interviews are conducted. Interview material is also being used in preparing several academic journal submissions.
As with all of EDGI’s work, the interview project not only documents the current transition and past ones, but also gives a glimpse into the entire history of EPA, while putting forth a model of more democratic environmental governance for the future. Interviewees’ knowledge is already helping us understand some of the dynamics now going on in the newly re-shaped EPA.
The interview project is ongoing. We invite people who have spent substantial time at a federal agency that deals with any environmental data and/or research (e.g. NOAA, NASA, Interior, DOE) to contact us for an interview. You can contact us using this this Google Form, by phone at (917) 887-4244, or if you have a fully encrypted email account you can copy the text of the survey and fill it out in the body of an email, sending it to: EnviroDGI@protonmail.com. Learn more about sending secure email to us.