The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Science Impact Collaborative (MIT SIC) is a research team within the Department of Urban Studies and Planning that is developing and testing new ways to harmonize science, politics and public policy in the management of natural resources and the resolution of environmental disputes. Our focus is on testing the effectiveness of a range of collaborative planning and decision-making techniques. Our tools and approaches include collaborative adaptive management, joint fact-finding, scenario planning, mediated multiparty negotiation, and the use of role-play simulation exercises.

Many scientists and scientific organizations believe that by doing more and better science, they will convince policy makers to take their findings seriously. We believe that there needs to be a fundamental realignment in the way science is produced and used in public policymaking. Absent this realignment, new scientific information will be marginalized in practice. The right kind of decision support tools can enable problem-solving conversations among stakeholders with radically different beliefs and interests.

The MIT SIC was established in 2003 with initial support from the United States Geological Survey. Today, the Initiative has numerous partners and supporters, ranging from the U.S. National Estuarine Research Reserve System to the Dutch research organization TNO. The MIT SIC is directed by Professor Lawrence Susskind.

By engaging in community-based action research projects, MIT SIC researchers – including doctoral students, masters students, undergraduates and faculty – train emerging environmental professionals while simultaneously testing the latest environmental planning methods and providing assistance to communities and policy-makers who seek our help.