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Barron Funded for Young Scientists Summer Program

Bob Barron, a Ph.D. candidate in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, has been selected for the 2014 Young Scientists Summer Program (YSSP) of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria. Barron’s participation in the YSSP will be funded by the National Science Foundation in cooperation with the National Academy of Sciences. The YSSP is a three-month research program for around 50 advanced Ph.D. students whose interests correspond with IIASA's ongoing research. IIASA is an international research organization that conducts inter-disciplinary scientific studies on environmental, economic, technological, and social issues in the context of human dimensions of global change.

Barron’s research for the program will focus on the role that research and development, coupled with uncertainty in technological change, plays in climate policy.

Barron’s work will apply a set of expert elicitations about the effect of R&D on the future cost of key low-carbon-energy technologies to IIASA’s MESSAGE model. The addition of probabilistic data will extend the capabilities of the MESSAGE model to begin to quantify the extent that policy can affect the future of low carbon energy, and at what cost, by examining how the likelihood of different future low carbon energy scenarios are impacted by R&D spending.

Barron’s NAS grant proposal explains the motivation for his research: “The future state of the energy sector and the many uncertainties surrounding it is a key aspect of climate-change policy research. Political, technological, and socioeconomic factors will all influence the energy future. Previous work done as part of the Global Energy Assessment (GEA) indicates that significant growth in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar is a necessary condition for meeting climate-change goals, and that significant increases to energy related investment are needed.”  

The proposal went on to say that one of the stated goals of the analysis conducted in the GEA was to provide a better understanding of what combination of measures, over which time frames and at what costs, is needed to deliver the necessary solutions. Barron’s research will further this goal by examining the role that R&D investment can play in shaping the energy sector’s future.

The end product of this research will be a portfolio of R&D investment recommendations for a range of assumptions about the future state of the world’s energy systems along with a sensitivity analysis of optimal R&D investment and the probability of meeting climate targets with respect to these different possible energy futures.

Barron’s Ph.D. dissertation, under the supervision of Professor Erin Baker, is addressing how uncertainties about future technological change are likely to impact R&D investments into a range of energy technologies. (May 2014)