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OU Risk Institute Becomes Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis

November 16, 2021

OU Risk Institute Becomes Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis

Carol Sliva and Hank Jenkins-Smith
IPPRA Co-Directors, Carol Silva and Hank Jenkins-Smith

NORMAN, OKLA. – To better support the strategic research areas defined in the Lead On, University strategic plan, the National Institute for Risk and Resilience at the University of Oklahoma is now the Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis.

“Dr. Carol Silva and Dr. Hank Jenkins-Smith have created an exceptional foundation for IPPRA through their decades of experience in bringing societal dimensions to complex public policy problems in collaboration with physical and biological scientists and engineers,” said Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, OU vice president for research and partnerships. “Wholistic solutions to grand challenge problems that have direct and positive impact on society require the integration of policy frameworks and the social sciences with the STEM disciplines. IPPRA will provide essential support for the implementation and integration of social science and public policy core capabilities across our strategic research verticals.”

Founded in 2015 and led by co-directors Silva and Jenkins-Smith, the National Institute for Risk and Resilience facilitated collaboration among OU research centers, individual scholars and external partners on risk-related teaching, research and outreach. As the Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis, Silva and Jenkins-Smith explain that it will serve as an institutional core capability to strengthen public policy research and analysis at OU.

“IPPRA serves as a research and problem-solving force multiplier by integrating public policy and the physical and engineering sciences to increase human well-being, improve our social choice infrastructure, and enhance resilience by addressing complex public policy problems and creating opportunities that span natural, technological and social systems,” Silva said. “The research capacity and institutional culture at IPPRA is collaborative, with decades of experience in bringing societal dimensions and policy analysis to complex problems in concert with researchers in the physical and biological sciences and engineering.”

IPPRA builds on the institute’s foundational research strengths to address the risks and opportunities stemming from the interactions of natural, technological and social choice infrastructure. IPPRA will also develop broader capacity to enhance transdisciplinary research that addresses what Silva and Jenkins-Smith call “wicked problems.”

“Public policy challenges such as how to deal with extreme weather and the changing climate, energy policy, the role of government intervention in pandemics and national security are just a few examples of wicked problems that cross multiple domains in which IPPRA can support impactful public policy research,” Jenkins-Smith said.

“IPPRA employs a diverse range of modeling and state of the art policy analysis methods to achieve a common systems perspective, seeking to integrate the social, natural and technological components of a problem area,” he added. “Our applications range from local, like the statewide NSF EPSCoR project S3OK: Solving wicked problems in Oklahoma, to international in scope, including research projects in India on energy supplies and in Peru on climate change and health disparities.”

Silva said the public policy work at IPPRA has an important role to play in a world where the stresses on collective decision-making institutions have grown exponentially “due to an array of urgent challenges coupled with deep societal disagreements on the nature of the threats we face and the opportunities we should pursue. IPPRA is looking forward to partnering with the VPRP Centers of Excellence to address these urgent public problems."