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Academic Careers at RFF

For those individuals seeking to launch an academic or policy career in environment, energy or natural resources, there is no better place than Resources for the Future. Not only do we prize rigorous academic research, our reputation for independent and objective policy analysis and entrée into policy circles is unmatched among leading think tanks. We invite you to explore our work, visit with our staff and management, and consider RFF as an academic home. 

Why RFF?

Starting an academic career at RFF provides a distinct advantage for those interested in both high-quality academic research and having an impact on public policy. Our researchers work at the intersection of academics and policy in a way that affects both areas, and offers them the flexibility to chart their own course. Follow these representative fellows on their distinct career paths—all of whom started out at RFF shortly after receiving their doctorates.

Dallas Burtraw Dallas Burtraw

After receiving his PhD in economics from the University of Michigan, Dallas joined RFF in 1989 and is now the Darius Gaskins Senior Fellow.


Carolyn Fischer Carolyn Fischer

Carolyn has been at RFF since 1997, after earning her PhD in economics from the University of Michigan.


Richard Newell Richard Newell

Richard began at RFF in 1997, where he focused on economic analysis of incentive-based policy, technological change, and the operation of markets.




At RFF, you will find more than 40 Ph.D. colleagues interested in environment, energy, natural resources, and public health policy.

You also will find encouragement and the ability to publish your research in high-quality academic outlets. RFF scholars publish in top-tier journals, including:

American Economic Review
Journal of Political Economy
Journal of Economic Theory
Quarterly Journal of Economics
Journal of Economic Perspectives
Review of Economics and Statistics
Journal of Public Economics
Journal of Economic Literature
Rand Journal of Economics
Scandinavian Journal of Economics
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Health Economics
Journal of Environmental Economics and Management


Journal of Environmental Management
American Journal of Agricultural Economics
Resource and Energy Economics
Energy Journal
Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics
Land Economics
Environmental and Resource Economics
Environment and Development Economics
Natural Resources Journal
Ecological Economics
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management
Journal of Urban Economics
Journal of Regulatory Economics
Journal of Risk and Uncertainty
Journal of Law and Economics

Engagement with Policy Formulation


Because of RFF’s location in Washington, researchers have ready access to government officials. Engagement ranges from formal congressional testimony, before such committees as the House Ways and Means and the Senate and House energy committees, to informal briefings with elected officials and staff, and workshops with agency administrators at NASA, NOAA, EPA, and the Department of Energy. RFF researchers regularly take on temporary assignments to work as senior staffers at the Council of Economic Advisers and to consult with other entities, including the National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, National Science Foundation, and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  


Traditional academic institutions do not afford their scholars a chance to actively engage with policymakers at the highest levels. Such engagement is considered a key reason why many RFF researchers choose to work herethe chance to make a palpable difference in the nation’s policy choices and direction.

Our longstanding RFF seminar series regularly brings in influential speakers for public presentations and discussion on current issues.  Presenters have included Nobel Laureate Thomas Schelling, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation President Paul Joskow, MIT Professor John Deutch, Google founder Sergey Brin, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, and academicians Larry Goulder of Stanford and Robert Stavins of Harvard.  Over the years, the RFF Policy Leadership Forum has provided a forum for a diverse set of speakers, including Senator Joe Lieberman and and then Senator Barack Obama; House Science Committee Chair Sherwood Boehlert; Council on Environmental Quality Chair Jim Connaughton; Under Secretary of Energy Robert Card; former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William K. Reilly; Jim Rogers, CEO of Cinergy; Steve Specker, CEO of the Electric Power Research Institute; and environmental advocates such as Amory Lovins and Bjørn Lomborg.

Our Intellectual Community


  At RFF, researchers are part of a larger, extended community, and we provide a rewarding and welcoming academic environment where colleagues join in mutually productive work. Our research staff and visitors, roughly 40 people in all, encompass an interdisciplinary and international cohort that is linked to a network of partner and funding institutions around the world. Collaboration and co-authorship are the normRFF scholars are able to focus on academic and policy issues in a noncompetitive setting that is characterized by active give-and-take with peers. Daily work schedules are flexible and informal.


Commitment to Academic Excellence and Freedom

Researchers are recognized as the top people in their fields, and are expected to publish in elite academic journals. Those who wish to teach can easily arrange to lecture or instruct classes at universities in the Washington area. Several RFF staff members have taught at Georgetown University, George Washington University, University of Maryland, and Johns Hopkins University.  RFF was one of the founding institutions that supported the creation of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, and we remain a charter member of that organization.

Our researchers hold advisory positions at a variety of external institutions, including the National Academy of Sciences, the EPA Science Advisory Board, and the World Bank.

A Supportive Institution


About two-thirds of RFF researchers' time is funded through foundation and government grants; the rest is covered by RFF’s endowment, which provides them with flexibility to develop new research areas for which there is not yet an external demand.  During their first two years, researchers have reduced funding expectations and are provided with significant mentoring opportunities for both writing grant proposals and journal articles. Senior RFF staff members often bring new researchers into existing projects and new proposals as part of this mentoring process. We also provide researchers with professional skills training on how to better communicate with policymakers and the media.

RFF strives to support its academic staff with not only research assistants and administrative help but also support from an experienced communications and editorial production team, an engaged and seasoned fundraising staff, a research library, and a robust information technology group.



A Researcher's Perspective on RFF

Former Senior Fellow William (Billy) Pizer worked at RFF from 1996 until 2008, when he was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment and Energy at the U.S Department of the Treasury, where he coordinated the department’s domestic and international environment and energy agenda.  Billy is now on the faculty at Duke University. In this video, Pizer reflects on the scholarly benefits of working at RFF.


Billy Pizer

What others are saying about RFF

“Among the endangered species in Washington these days is the independent, nonpartisan, non-ideological think tankan organization that can’t be bought, can’t be intimidated, and whose work cannot be ignored.

One notable exception is Resources or the Future, which for more than 50 years has brought the rigor of economic analysis to the consideration of environmental issues.”

Excerpted from “Think Tank Leader’s Principled Wisdom will be Missed,” by Steven Pearlstein, Washington Post, June 15, 2005


“. . .  to become famous in the world of ideas is to be ahead of the curve, whereas RFF has tended to be ahead of ahead of the curve.


It is intriguing to imagine how environmentalism might have looked had it instead taken RFF's hopeful, market-friendly approach as its template. For five decades, RFF's work on a wide range of subjects has been distinguished by an attitude that is optimistic but also reformist, results-oriented rather than process-bound . . .”

Excerpted from “Ideas Change the World – and One Think Tank Quietly Did,” by Jonathan Rauch, National Journal, October 7, 2002



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