Bass Connections


Supreme-court2015-2016: Reviewing Retrospective Regulatory Review

How well do regulations actually work—and, in turn, how well do government reviews of regulatory impacts actually work? This project will study the emerging efforts of government agencies throughout the world to evaluate the actual impacts of their regulatory programs—so-called “retrospective regulatory review” (RRR). As RRR mechanisms proliferate, a number of questions arise: Who performs these reviews, and what are their goals? What are their methods? How do their findings influence regulatory policy? Through comparative analysis of case studies at the local, national, and international levels, we’ll examine how well these mechanisms are functioning, and learn how they could do better.

Bass Connections theme: Brain & SocietyInformation, Society & Culture
KIE program connection: Rethinking Regulation

Faculty team members:
Edward Balleisen (History, Public Policy)
Lori Bennear (Environmental Sciences & Policy)
Jonathan Weiner (Law, Environmental Sciences & Policy, Public Policy)
Elizabeth Brake (Fuqua)
Kimberly Krawiec (Law School)
Amy Pickle (Nicholas Institute)
Billy Pizer (Sanford School of Public Policy)
Benjamin Waterhouse (History, UNC Chapel Hill)
Undergraduate and Graduate Student team members:
Kate Baxter (Undergraduate)
Josh Bruce (PhD, Sociology)
Mercy Demenno (PhD, Public Policy)
Bochen Han (Undergraduate)
Anna Johns (PhD, History)
Sarah Kerman (Undergraduate)
Rishabh Kumar (Undergraduate)
Jackie Lin (Undergraduate)
Nancy Merlin (Undergraduate)
Neelesh Moorthy (Undergraduate)
Daniel Ribeiro (SJD, Law)
Alena Sadiq (Undergraduate)


News-Bass2014-2015: Regulatory Disaster Scene Investigation

Faculty Leaders
Lori Bennear (Nicholas School of the Environment and Economics); Jonathan Wiener (Law); Edward Balleisen (History); Kim Krawiec (Law)

Student Team Members
David Cheang (Master’s candidate, Nicholas School for the Environment), Jonathon Free (PhD. candidate, History),  Megan Hayes (Master’s candidate, Nicholas School for the Environment), and Emily Pechar (PhD. candidate, Nicholas School for the Environment), and Kate Preston (undergraduate majoring in Public Policy)

The student team members are currently taking on the following tasks:

  • Research on the history of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Chemical Safety Board (CSB), including their origins and evolution, and an assessment of their institutional strengths and weaknesses;
  • Research on the history of any similar institutions in other industrialized democracies;
  • Compile a series of interviews with NTSB and CSB officials, as a means of fleshing out their organizational culture, professional ethos, and sense of independence.

The students’ research, which is being shaped by regular meetings with faculty advisors, will culminate in reports available on the Rethinking Regulation website.


Project Description:

As events during the past few years remind us, modern industrialized societies frequently experience large-scale disasters and crises.  We are studying  how these events change perceptions of risk, both among elites and ordinary citizens, and then how these shifts in risk perceptions do (or do not) influence changes in regulatory policies.  With the help of an international, multidisciplinary team of scholars, we are exploring these broad questions through three clusters of case studies  — about financial crashes, off-shore oil spills, and nuclear accidents.  The resulting book will have both a descriptive dimension (identifying broad patterns in crisis-driven regulatory policy) and a normative element (formulating recommendations for how policy-makers can prevent at least some crises through paying more attention to “near misses” and design regulatory institutions so that governments can better handle unanticipated crises).

One important thread in our concluding recommendations concerns the best way for governments to learn from disasters/crises.  Almost always these events prompt special inquiries by legislative committees or blue-ribbon commissions that are convened as one-off investigations.  We wish to explore the potential for creating additional permanent investigative bodies such as the United States National Transportation Safety Board and Chemical Safety Board.  These agencies have no direct regulatory authority over the adoption or implementation of regulations.   They do, however, possess considerable expertise and experience in the analysis of disasters (plane/train crashes; chemical plant explosions) or near misses, which happen far more frequently.  We wish to explore whether industrialized democracies might benefit from more substantial and wide-ranging investments in regulatory “disaster scene investigation,” as through the creation of similarly independent agencies that specialize in the assessment of financial collapses and lesser market panics; or offshore oil blow-outs and narrowly averted spills; or nuclear meltdowns and near-meltdowns; or crises and near-crises in other policy domains.