Regulatory Disaster Scene Investigation (2014-2015)

What is the best way for governments to learn from disasters and crises such as financial crashes, offshore oil spills and nuclear accidents?

This project team explored that question as part of the larger research effort Recalibrating Risk at the Kenan Institute for Ethics. Almost always these disasters/crises prompt special inquiries by legislative committees or blue-ribbon commissions that are convened as one-off investigations. The team investigated the potential expansion of more permanent investigative bodies such as the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Chemical Safety Board (CSB). Team members examined the NTSB and CSB, including their origins and evolution and their institutional strengths and weaknesses. The project included travel to Washington, DC, to interview NTSB and CSB officials, as a means of fleshing out their organizational culture, professional ethos and sense of independence. Team members also interviewed officials at financial, energy and environmental agencies to explore whether and how investigatory institutions might be used in these policy domains.

The team contributed to a book, Policy Shock: Recalibrating Risk and Regulation after Oil Spills, Nuclear Accidents and Financial Crises, published by Cambridge University Press in 2017. Team leaders presented research at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) headquarters in Paris.


Summer 2014

Team Outcomes

Edward J. Balleisen, Lori S. Bennear, Kimberly D. Krawiec, Jonathan B. Wiener, eds. Policy Shock: Recalibrating Risk and Regulation after Oil Spills, Nuclear Accidents and Financial Crises. Cambridge University Press, 2017 (featuring contributions from Bass Connections team members David Cheang, Jonathon Free, Megan Hayes, Emily Pechar, A. Catherine Preston)

Can Regulation Learn from Disaster? Lessons from Oil Spills, Nuclear Accidents, and Financial Crises (event sponsored by the Rethinking Regulation Program at the Kenan Institute for Ethics; Washington, DC, March 16, 2018)

The Global Diffusion of Regulatory Impact Assessment (session at World Congress on Risk 2015 chaired by Jonathan Wiener, with related presentations from Bass Connections project team research)

Commissions of Inquiry and Crisis Events (presentation by Emily Pechar)


Jon Free, Ph.D. in History '16

Kate Preston

This Team in the News

These Ph.D. Graduates Incorporated Bass Connections into Their Doctoral Education

Duke Law Faculty and Students Showcase Range of Expertise through Bass Connections Projects

Faculty Perspectives: Jonathan Wiener

Jonathan Wiener on Interdisciplinary Collaboration

US Cities Are Suing the Fossil Fuel Industry to Stop Irreparable Climate Change Damage

New Book Edited by Duke Scholars Examines How Crises (Including Oil Spills and Nuclear Accidents) Reshape Regulation

Policy Shock: A New Book Examines How Governments Respond to Crises—and How to Do Better

Are Regulations, Incentives and Other Policy Approaches Working?

Rethinking Regulation Graduate Student Profile: Jonathon Free

Bass Connections Inspires New Teaching, Research

Regulatory Disaster Scene Investigation: A Bass Connections Project Team and the Library

Regulation Students Interview National Officials in DC

Jonathon Free: My Bass Connections Pathway

Dissecting Disaster: 4 Best Practices for Government Response

Photos on Bass Connections Flickr

The most rewarding aspect for me was the interaction with the other members of the project team. We divided our research into three subgroups, and I was lucky enough to work with the one undergraduate student on the team. While we have opportunities as graduate students to teach introductory-level classes, this experience gave me the chance to mentor an advanced undergraduate doing sophisticated research for the first time. —Jonathon Free

See related team, Reviewing Retrospective Regulatory Review (2015-2016). Additional support for this project was provided by the Silver Family Kenan Institute for Ethics Fund in Support of Bass Connections.

Team Leaders

  • Edward Balleisen, Sanford School of Public Policy|Arts & Sciences-History
  • Lori Bennear, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Carson Holloway, Duke Libraries
  • Kimberly Krawiec, Duke Law
  • Jonathan Wiener, Duke Law

/graduate Team Members

  • David Cheang, Master of Environmental Management, Energy and Environment
  • Jonathon Free, History-PHD
  • Megan Hayes, Master of Environmental Management, Environmental Economics/Policy
  • Emily Pechar, Environmental Policy-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Kate Preston, Public Policy Studies (AB)

/zcommunity Team Members

  • United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
  • US Chemical Safety Board