The goal of this U.S.-Czech research project between JoAnn Carmin of Virginia Polytechnic and Sate University and partners from the University of Economics, Prague, is to educate junior researchers and to strengthen the theoretical foundation for assessments of environmental policy learning and capacity development in situations related to natural disasters, such as flooding. As a European Union accession country, the Czech Republic faces the challenge of setting resilient policies and practices that comply with EU directives. The principal investigator and her partners, Jirina Jilkova and Zdenek Kopecky, maintain that learning and adaptation are central to sound policy. In this context, the team of U.S. and Czech social scientists and graduate students plans to examine current Czech capacity for informed environmental policy by answering questions related to their experience with: 1) disaster processes that focused on enhancement of regulatory mechanisms, technical capabilities and resource availability and 2) a mix of public, private, and civil society actors and institutions that contributed to governmental capacity to implement and sustain environmental policy.

As a means for understanding environmental learning and capacity development, the researchers will examine elements of one focusing event, the Czech floods of 2002. The significance of the floods will allow the researchers to draw timely conclusions that will be applicable to both theory and practice. Specific attention will be paid to institutional and organizational change in the four dimensions of capacity addressed by this study: policy, scientific and technical, economic, and nongovernmental. Results are expected to lead to a refined rubric for identifying procedural underpinnings that can support and sustain the implementation and enforcement of policy and practices.

Overall, the collaborative research should generate policy relevant information that can be used by Czechs decision-makers or others in countries and communities that must cope with the consequences of natural disasters. Furthermore, by integrating students with all phases of the research process and providing them with mentoring, they will gain valuable international experience in assessing responsiveness to environmental focusing events. This project fulfills the program objective of advancing scientific knowledge by enabling experts in the United States and Central Europe to combine complementary talents and share research resources in areas of strong mutual interest and competence.

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