Union of Concerned Scientists
Recognized as a top National Climate Change nonprofit in the following years:
Sep 18, 2012
At the Union of Concerned Scientists we see science as a powerful tool for solving our planet's most pressing problems. We believe rigorous science must inspire innovation and inform policies that make the world healthier and safer, and help ensure…
In 2011, UCS documented the collision between competing demands in:
» Freshwater Use by U.S. Power Plants: Electricity’s Thirst for a Precious Resource, the first report ever to assess both the specific impact of power plants on water supplies and the quality of information available to help us make water-smart energy decisions. We met with reporters, government officials, and utility companies around the country to discuss the findings, garnering dozens of stories in the press, including the New York Times’ Green blog.
» Power and Water at Risk, a fact sheet highlighting numerous recent examples of power plants that had to reduce capacity or shut down because water was either too warm or too scarce to cool the plant. » Corn Ethanol’s Threat to Freshwater Resources, a short report describing the fertilizer pollution caused by producing ethanol from corn—pollution that could be reduced by switching to more sustainable fuel crops.
Expert Reviews of Union of Concerned Scientists
Evidence of Impact Summary:The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) utilizes research and data as a primary tool for influencing climate adaptation strategies. They produce well researched science-based reports on climate change effects and adaptation strategies, and they use this information to educate policy makers and the general public. They work to make their information informative and accessible to a variety of audiences. In many ways, science is under attack politically, and also serves the important role of supporting and defending science and scientists in these times.
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Organization Strengths Summary:The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is fortunate to have a talented and knowledgeable team. Both staff and the leadership are assets to the organization. The organization’s science-centric mission and approach are very important strengths. One way this serves them is the clear political neutrality in their membership base, and their advocacy strategy; they focus exclusively on evidence-based solutions. They are also using their information to fully educate decision makers. Their high-quality data has made them a trusted source of information. One expert stated they’d never known a UCS publication to have exaggerated or misstated facts, a statement they could make for no other organization.
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Areas for Improvement Summary:The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) should work on improving their outreach and communications. They could do this by increasing visibility, making their work more accessible to non-scientific audiences, and improving the content quality of their publications. They may also want to consider expanding their network by exploring more collaboration opportunities, reaching out to more scientists, and perhaps looking into the possibility of opening local chapters in a few key cities. UCS may also want to look at some of their strategic decisions more closely. At that time they should look specifically at the possibility of increasing their advocacy work, reviewing the way their reports may impact relationships, and balancing political responsiveness with the organizational focus.
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Expert Comments: Evidence of Impact
|In an era when a lot of nonprofits have scaled back or redirected their climate change work, UCS continues to put out innovative research that is useful for policy and action.|
|UCS provides science-based research and education to policymakers in Congress and other legislative bodies. It's essential that these folks be educated about climate issues.|
|Their impact is the passage of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards. They also communicate the impacts of climate change.|
|They have the resources to technically substantiate carbon saving policies in the vehicle and fuels sector. They have been a valued resource for both carbon related land use issues involving biofuels, and also savvy advocates for justifying higher fuel economy standards.|
|They helped to pass, and are now playing defense for, AB 32 in California. They provided strong support for the EPA to maintain and expand carbon pollution regulations.|
|They have made a huge contribution to securing national fuel economy standards of 55 mpg for passenger vehicles, and the first ever heavy-duty vehicle standards. Together these standards will save the equivalent of two Persian Gulf's worth of oil and 700 million tons of carbon reductions.|
Defending and Utilizing Science
|UCS is the epitome of a good science-based policy advocacy organization. It is seen as the gold standard among many policy makers. I have never known a UCS publication that exaggerates or mis-states facts.|
|UCS focuses on educating the public and policymakers on climate change science and its societal impacts. Global warming and anthropogenic climate change encompass one of their key programs. They also cover nuclear energy, weapons issues, clean vehicle technology, and food and agriculture issues. The information they provide is factual and well-researched, which makes it reliable. UCS is starting a center for science and democracy to focus on restoring the essential role of science, evidence-based decision making in our society.|
|They are a leading advocate for sound science.|
|UCS has been making an aggressive effort to improve the quality of communication on science-related issues. They have started by making significant efforts to increase understanding about what the impediments to better communication are and why opposing sides seem to be talking past each other. Their meetings on this have been working to bring together not only physical and social scientists, but also representatives of various groups, from religious organizations to community organizers. Rather than just suggest that the other side does not understand, this effort is seeking to understand and make improvements.|
|UCS works as a bridge between scientists around the world and the general public. They also help scientists keep track of what is happening on the global warming front. They have a lot of respect in the field because they are reflecting the science, and not the beliefs or politics. Global warming is fact, not a belief, and there are no Republican floods and Democratic fires.|
|Their impact is the role of science in decision making, adaptation work, and transportation.|
|UCS produces independent scientific assessments of environmental issues currently under consideration. This information is often very relevant and is frequently used by policy makers to help make informed decisions. They are also active in building public awareness of not only the problems associated with climate change, but solutions as well.|
|UCS is one of the only groups devoted to working with climate scientists, who are increasingly under attack by industry. They are highly respected and trusted, and their work is impeccable. Although work on climate science in and of itself is not sufficient, it is necessary. They also have on staff one of the top climate treaty experts in the country. They have two top nuclear experts who were heavily cited during the Fukushima disaster. Nuclear issues are related to climate change.|
|They have kept the focus on science-based policy in a time when science has been under attack. They also focus on practical policy measures.|
|UCS is adding to the body of research in a way that is user friendly.|
|They have expert climate scientists on staff. UCS has the ability to communicate climate protection to the public, and they are nonpartisan. The basic science of climate change is crucial and UCS provides it in ways that lay people can understand.|
|They have a great outreach program, which is delivered through their website and email alerts. They talk about climate change in a way that most people can understand and relate.|
Expert Comments: Organization Strengths
Communicating Complex Issues
|The combination of strong communication and targeted research creates impactful research that should be a model for many other organizations.|
|UCS' leadership has taken the approach of leading by example. This has resulted in the organization being dedicated to its mission from top to bottom. They also have a very effective public outreach and social media operation, and have been more successful than many nonprofits in communicating their science and policy work to the general public.|
|UCS' high quality analysis has made them a critical player in technical and policy discussions on vehicle efficiency standards. Their ground-breaking work on communicating climate change impacts have been important for helping the public and policy makers visualize climate change impacts (i.e., Illinois will feel like Texas by the end of the century).|
|They have sound and consistent leadership, and the ability to communicate science to non-scientists. They also have a great staff.|
|I have never known a UCS publication that exaggerates or mis-states facts. I can not say that for any other national climate organization. Also, UCS' impressive staff includes credentialed economists and scientists. This makes their voice highly credible.|
|Their strength is credibility.|
|They have produced some of the very best work of any NGO in the country. They are in my top 5 for sure!|
|UCS is primarily a membership organization that relies on dues and individual giving for the majority of financial support (82%). Foundation grants provide the second largest portion of the organization's income (14%). I see their strong grassroots support and diversity as an asset. Climate and energy is the largest single program in the budget (40%), more than triple the next largest sector. There is a healthy emphasis on guiding members to take action.|
|UCS underwent a very seamless transition at the CEO level about 7 years ago, and they have very low staff turnover. They are widely seen as one of the best places to work in the NGO community (along with the World Resources Institute).|
|UCS has strong leadership, technical capacity, and adherence to policy based on scientific analysis.|
Educating Policy Makers
|UCS' science-based approach is essential for formulating good public policy, even though some of our elected officials are uneducated, "anti-science" antediluvians! UCS puts out policy briefs that inform those legislators willing to learn and listen.|
|They have a good government affairs and outreach program. They are thought leaders in vehicles and fuels.|
|They are a critical voice translating science into policy.|
|UCS produces high quality data that provides a solid evidence base for those doing advocacy. UCS produces and reports on research in a way that is refreshingly accessible.|
|UCS has not only an excellent staff, but linkages to scientists around the country who can be mobilized to communicate with their local elected officials. They have also been very dedicated to making sure that scientists in government are able to speak freely and accurately on the science that is emerging from their agencies, rather than having it controlled for political reasons. This is really critical if science is going to be effective in promoting optimal policies for the public and environment.|
|They rest all of their findings on science. They interpret science for the public. They aid researchers by teaching them how to talk to the press, the public, etc.|
Strong Staff & Leadership
|They have a great staff.|
|They have great leadership and staff.|
|This team is terrific. Kevin Knobloch, Alden Meyer, and Angela Anderson, along with many others, are very impressive. They are a critical player at the domestic and international level. They help scientists keep connecting to people in real communities about the local impacts of climate change.|
Expert Comments: Areas for Improvement
|More organizations could benefit from collaborating with UCS.|
|UCS could improve by developing a bigger, richer bench of physicians and scientists who can be leaders in their local communities in the push for national climate policy.|
|Perhaps they should organize local chapters in a few key cities.|
Improve Communications & Outreach
|I would like to see more rapid response and improving the translation of science into plain language.|
|I've been a member of UCS for years, and recently I've been disappointed by the insipid, watered-down four-page paper newsletter they send out. I think they are misjudging their audience and wasting a lot of paper with very generic calls to action and out-of-date info about legislative issues that have already been decided. Their four-color quarterly publication gives more in-depth information, and I think they could provide even more in-depth education to their members and donors.|
|Getting their great information out more broadly would be fantastic. Also, they could do more in terms of partnering with member-based organizations to maximize exposure and impact.|
|This problem of the role of science in society reaches across a broad swath of scientific areas, and this needs to be shared more broadly, and somehow in a way that does not further broaden the present split in the political realm. Somehow finding a way to communicate broadly to the public in a non-partisan way that effectively reaches across the spectrum is what is needed - how to do that is not at all clear. Another effort that UCS can work to further develop is to find and promote exposure of interesting scientific spokespersons that can gain national attention the way that Carl Sagan and few others have been able to achieve.|
|I think they could partner with folks to make their word get heard in more venues. There may be more ways of getting their word out to more folks than they do right now.|
|They could benefit from more visibility.|
Re-think Political Strategy
|The coordination between programs and offices could be enhanced. Additionally, because so much of the research and policy work is undertaken in response to current discussions or events, the organization can sometimes be perceived to lose focus, or to not have an overarching mission.|
|Their recent report on corporations and climate change was a bit alienating for some NGOs and companies. In this political climate, I'm not sure it helps advance the climate issue.|
|UCS has to walk the line between science and advocacy. That can be quite difficult, but I think there are many who wish that UCS would be just a bit more edgy.|
|This is a great organization, but often misses on the most strategic ways to work with government.|
Need More Resources
|They are highly respected, but recently laid off most of the climate change and forests teams due to lack of funding. They need help with fundraising.|
Kevin was named President of UCS in December 2003, after four years as the Executive Director. Earlier in his career, from 1989 to 1992, he served as UCS’s Legislative Director for Arms Control and National Security. Kevin currently oversees all of the organization's programs and operations..
He has served as chair of the Green Group, a coalition of the CEOs of 32 national environmental organizations, and served as co-chair of the Green Group Climate and Energy Committee for seven years. He led UCS delegations to the United Nations International Climate negotiations in Montreal in 2005, Bali in 2007, Poznan in 2008, and Copenhagen in 2009..
During six years on Capitol Hill in the 1980s, Kevin was the legislative director for U.S. Senator Timothy Wirth (D-CO) and legislative assistant and press secretary for U.S. Representative Ted Weiss (D-NY)..
He later served as director of conservation programs for the Appalachian Mountain Club in Boston. He began his career as an award-winning newspaper journalist, writing for several Massachusetts publications. He recently completed eight years on the board of directors of the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) and serves on the Environmental League of Massachusetts board of directors. He is also cofounder and former president of the Arlington (MA) Land Trust..
Kevin holds a master's degree in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, with a focus on natural resource economics and environmental management, and a bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he concentrated in English and journalism.
From the Nonprofit
Sep 18, 2012
At the Union of Concerned Scientists we see science as a powerful tool for solving our planet's most pressing problems. We believe rigorous science must inspire innovation and inform policies that make the world healthier and safer, and help ensure a prosperous future. We join with citizens in communities across the country in working passionately toward this goal.
On all our issues, we’ve designed strategies to make progress that’s grounded in the latest science, leveraging our scientific expertise, policy input, and capacity to “translate” technical information to achieve practical solutions. This includes taking new approaches such as the launch of the Center for Science and Democracy, a bold new initiative to strengthen the American democracy by restoring the essential role of science, evidence-based decision making, and constructive debate as a means to improve the health, security, and prosperity of all Americans.