Brown Professor and CDL Founder Wins Prestigious Frederick H. Buttel Award

By Olivia Santiago

Second weekers

Professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology and CDL founder, J. Timmons Roberts, will be receiving the Frederick H. Buttel Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Environmental Sociology this summer in Japan. The International Sociological Association’s Research Committee on Environment and Society makes this award only every four years, making for a very competitive selection.  

In a Brown Daily Herald interview, Roberts said that he studies “climate change, and especially developing countries and how they’re coping with climate change… something for which they have not been responsible for, hardly at all.”

The Buttel Award highlights his international contributions to the field of environment-society relations, as well as his published work. Roberts has written dozens of scholarly articles and books that are often cited in the environmental sociology and broader academic community. His policy-oriented reports, published with top think tanks including the International Institute for Environment and Development, the Brookings Institution, and Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, are routinely cited by delegates from the Least Developed Countries in the UN climate negotiations. In the past two years, Roberts’ work has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post and Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

During the last decade Roberts also co-founded two impactful organizations on international development and environmental issues: Aid Data (aiddata.org) and Adaptation Watch (adaptationwatch.org).  Both seek to improve transparency of foreign assistance, and thereby maintain and build trust between the global North and South.

As the founder of the Climate and Development Lab, Timmons has built an active team of undergraduate and graduate student researchers at Brown, which works to inform a more equitable and effective international climate change policy agenda through cutting-edge research.  He has led groups of students to participate in UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations in Cancun, Durban, and Warsaw (pictured above). He has created a unique environment with his students, which has resulted in more engaged and collaborative learning opportunities.

Roberts enjoys the interdisciplinary nature of his work between the environmental studies and sociology departments at Brown, seeing the award as a “big validation” of his efforts.  Roberts expressed his gratitude for the recognition, saying the award “affirms that people in my discipline respect international, collaborative work that seeks to have an impact … and that means a lot to me because that’s the kind of work I love doing.”  He commented of the collaborative work with students and fellows in the Climate and Development Lab that “research and writing about things that matter are a great joy to me, and I try to share that with my students.”

Look out for more bold efforts from Timmons and the CDL: two collaborative books are nearing completion, and a new set of research products and a conference are planned for later this spring.    

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