Dr. Kent E. Portney, professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University, has been appointed director of the Institute for Science, Technology, and Public Policy at the Bush School. A leading expert on environmental policy, urban sustainability, and policy analysis, Portney will oversee the Institute’s efforts to examine public policy issues and communicate research-based knowledge to the public and decision makers. He will begin his duties as director on September 1, 2016, and will succeed Dr. Arnold Vedlitz, who is stepping down as director after serving in that capacity since the Institute’s founding in 2000.
“I am thrilled to assume the directorship of ISTPP, although upholding the standards set by Professor Vedlitz is a daunting task,” said Portney. “With an impressive track record of accomplishment, Professor Vedlitz has built the capacity of the Institute for faculty and students to engage in and collaborate on serious science and technology policy research. I hope to be able to build and expand on this capacity in the years to come while promoting research on public support for policy options, water-energy-food nexus policies, transboundary water policy and management, urban resiliency, and other areas.”
The Institute for Science, Technology, and Public Policy (ISTPP) is a nonpartisan, interdisciplinary public policy research institute. The Institute examines pressing and complex issues related to the framing and communication of science and technology information to help inform difficult public policy questions. ISTPP communicates its research-based findings to the public and decision makers and publishes them in scholarly journals. In the past five years, ISTPP has partnered with approximately 200 researchers in the United States and in other countries on research proposals and proposal development (incubator activities), and has funded numerous projects and scholarly efforts. This includes working and partnering with researchers in twenty-nine different departments at Texas A&M University, ten of the TAMU Colleges, and twelve TAMU centers and institutes. ISTPP also partners with researchers and scholars at thirty other US universities and with researchers around the world, including twenty-one international organizations in Austria, China, Germany, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, and other countries.
Portney joined the Bush School in 2014 after a distinguished career on the Tufts University faculty, which he had been a member of since 1979. In addition to serving as chair of the Department of Political Science and director of the Graduate Program in Public Policy and Citizen Participation, he also served as director of the Water and Research Program at the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He received his PhD in political science from Florida State University, his master’s from the University of Connecticut, and his bachelor’s from Rutgers University, where his studies focused on public administration and public policy.
He has authored or co-authored nine books on such topics as economic and environmental development, citizen participation, and teaching critical reasoning in the social sciences; and he has written numerous journal articles on urban sustainability, urban politics, and the local nonprofit sector. His book The Rebirth of Urban Democracy earned him two awards from the American Political Science Association. He has been awarded numerous grants from the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the Polaroid Foundation. He is frequently invited to conduct media interviews and present at conferences and symposiums, and has taught graduate courses on the political behavior of young people, public opinion and survey research, water policy and economics, the politics of environmental policy in the US, and the politics of sustainable cities.
Portney will succeed Dr. Arnold Vedlitz, who has served as director of ISTPP for the past sixteen years. During Vedlitz’ tenure as director, ISTPP has been awarded more than $16 million in externally funded research grants from twenty-two different sponsors, including the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the US Department of Homeland Security, the Texas Department of Transportation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among many others.
In addition to his time as director of ISTPP, Vedlitz also served as director of the Center for Public Leadership Studies, a precursor to ISTPP. He has served in a number of positions at Texas A&M University since 1973, including associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, associate provost for external affairs, and executive associate dean of the Bush School, a position he resumed in 2013. He received his BA and MA degrees in government from Louisiana State University and his PhD in political science from the University of Houston.
Vedlitz is holder of the Bob Bullock Chair in Government and Public Policy, a chair he has held since 2000. He joined the Bush School in 1996, one of the first professors to join the faculty when the Bush School was founded. He is a co-author and co-editor of a highly cited book from MIT Press dealing with natural resources management and decision making; author of an important book on public policy; and author of ninety peer-reviewed journal articles, most published in top field/disciplinary journals or in top subject-matter journals.
“It has been a tremendous honor to serve as director of ISTPP these past several years, and I am excited to see the many ways Kent will take the Institute to new heights,” said Vedlitz. “ISTPP does incredibly important work educating both policymakers and the general public about major policy issues—from climate change to the nexus of water, energy, and food. I have tremendous gratitude to the many colleagues I have had the pleasure to work with over the years and know the milestones the Institute has achieved would not have been possible without their hard work.”