FAQs—How Researchers at RFF Make an Impact

Resources for the Future (RFF) is the leader in smart environmental policy design and innovation. Throughout our 70-year history, we have spearheaded research advances in the conservation of natural resources, energy production and use, the valuation of environmental benefits, design of incentive-based policies, and policies to address the challenge of climate change. RFF also engages with the policy process: policymakers, businesses, nonprofits, communities, philanthropies, and others turn to RFF to help them improve their environmental decisions.

Keep reading to find out what it’s like to work at a world-class, policy-oriented research organization in the heart of Washington, DC.

What is the RFF research community like?

RFF’s Washington, DC, office is home to about 60 experts pursuing RFF’s mission through research and policy engagement. RFF is a community committed to both intellectual rigor and impact, where there is unparalleled opportunity to do research and policy analysis that has real-world applications and consequences for decisionmaking. Indeed, while many of our researchers have PhDs in economics and related fields, many also have extensive experience working with decisionmakers to solve policy problems.

People are RFF’s greatest asset. We encourage an informal and collegial work atmosphere, with highly collaborative, team-based research projects. Daily work schedules are flexible. RFF often hosts in-house seminars on current research as well as public events that convene high-level policymakers, the business community, and leading academics from around the world. We’re also committed to building upon a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion, which you can read more about here.Tha

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How is RFF organized?

RFF’s research staff work on diverse, interconnected research topics, maintaining an emphasis on the most pressing environmental, energy, and natural resource concerns of our time. Our work centers on two broad areas of strategic focus:

  • Designing Smart Emissions Reduction Strategies: We create climate solutions that are effective, efficient, and equitable, beneficial to the economy, and able to achieve net-zero emissions goals—from economy-wide solutions that send consistent economic signals to the economy, to sector-specific strategies for all major areas of the economy.
  • Confronting Risks and Building Resilience: We evaluate the physical and economic impacts of climate change, using data to assess risks and uncertainties at global, national, sectoral, and local scales, ensuring that decisionmakers are equipped with the information they need to build resilience in their communities.

These areas of strategic focus map onto a suite of programs and initiatives at RFF. Seven research programs reflect our long-term commitments to critical bodies of environmental research. They are led by RFF senior fellows:

  • Electric Power
  • Climate Risks and Impacts
  • Industry and Fuels
  • Land Use, Forestry, and Agriculture
  • Comprehensive Climate Strategies
  • Adaptation and Resilience
  • Transportation

Eight initiatives address a set of timely, cross-cutting topics, and are led by a combination of RFF senior fellows and fellows:

  • Federal Climate Policy
  • International Climate Policy
  • Carbon Markets
  • Equity in the Energy Transition
  • Environmental Justice
  • Social Cost of Carbon

More information about our research program and initiative areas can be found on our topics page.

How does RFF identify research and policy engagement activities that will have the most impact?

Each year, program leadership guides processes with fellows and senior fellows to set research, outreach, and fundraising priorities for the coming year. These processes are collaborative and require the involvement and input of all research staff, as well as RFF’s communications and development teams. In addition, individuals at all levels of experience are actively encouraged to develop ideas for research projects. Researchers on each project have full discretion to be creative in determining how problems are addressed and are free to go where the evidence leads them. They are expected to think ahead to identify new or coming challenges.

RFF’s research agenda helps to achieve RFF’s mission and vision for a healthy environment and a thriving economy.


How do RFF researchers have an impact in their fields?

RFF prizes high-quality scholarship and designs the traditional researcher career path to promote such accomplishments. RFF researchers are recognized as top experts in their fields, routinely engaging in professional conferences, workshops, peer review, and other scholarly activities. RFF was one of the founders of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists and it remains a charter member of that organization.

Research leaders may also emerge from other career paths that include a proven track record in managing team-based research.

RFF encourages the professional development of its staff and sets aside resources for that purpose.

How does our work make a real-world difference?

RFF researchers actively engage with environmental and energy decisionmakers in both the public and private sectors. The chance to make a palpable difference in high-level decisionmaking is a key reason why researchers choose to be a part of RFF.

Our experts regularly appear before various federal congressional committees and hold informal briefings with elected officials and staff, as well as workshops with agency administrators at federal, state, and local levels. They are also called upon for service in the federal government, including as senior staffers on the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, as special assistants to the president, and as agency heads, assistant or deputy assistant secretaries, and chief economists at federal agencies.

RFF researchers are frequently asked to serve on high-level honorary, advisory, and technical committees sponsored by a wide variety of institutions, including many federal agencies, the National Academy of Sciences, professional economics associations, international and multilateral development organizations, foundations, research institutes, and other nongovernmental organizations.

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How do RFF researchers disseminate their work?

In addition to publishing research working papers and journal articles, RFF researchers prepare issue briefs and RFF-branded reports. RFF researchers also contribute to RFF's flagship print and digital magazine, Resources, which features articles, interviews, analysis, blog posts, and more.

RFF researchers are regularly quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, Marketplace, the Associated Press, National Journal, POLITICO, USA Today, the Financial Times, US News & World Report, and a host of trade press publications.

How is RFF funded?

RFF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with an $18-million budget, two-thirds of which comes from grants from foundations, governments, and other organizations, as well as philanthropic gifts from individuals and corporations. More details are available in RFF’s annual reports. RFF’s supporters are committed to upholding RFF’s independence and integrity as part of their commitment to our mission.