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Baker Buzz

News and Events from the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy

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Virtual Events

Image of a salt marsh

Using Meta-Analysis to Quantify Ecosystem Service Values 

As part of the Center's Energy & Environment Forum, Dr. Robert Johnston will discuss prospects and challenges related to the use of meta-regression models (MRMs) for ecosystem service valuation with an emphasis on the model development and accuracy of resulting value estimates. He will highlight the potential advantages of MRM benefit transfers together with the challenges and data needs encountered when developing and applying these models to quantify ecosystem service values. This virtual event will take place on Thursday, November 5th, from 1:00-2:30 pm. The Zoom meeting link can be found here
Bluebird in a grassland field

Effects of Renewable Energy on Avian Populations 

Dr. Tara Conkling, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, will discuss how increased growth of renewable-energy production (e.g., perennial native grasses for bioenergy production, wind, and solar energy) creates concerns about environmental impacts, as part of the Center's Energy & Environment Forum. In her lecture, Conkling will explain the effects of biofuel-focused grasslands on grassland bird reproductive success and conservation as well as the vulnerability of avian populations to solar and wind energy. These results highlight the threats that can contribute to large-scale declines for avian populations. This virtual event will take place on Thursday, November 12th, from 1:00-2:30 pm. The Zoom meeting link can be found here
Photo of a woman at a peaceful protest with her fist in the air. Behind her, a sign reads

Baker Cafe: Human Rights Hotspots 

Despite the evolution of human rights from ideas to international law, no state has ever fully lived up to these ideals. By establishing these principles in international law, human rights have come to represent a fundamental challenge to the concept of national sovereignty. Recent events throughout the world, including in well-established democracies, have put human rights on the defensive. In this Baker Cafe, director of student programs at the Howard Baker Center, Dr. Jonathan Ring, will discuss the evolution of human rights expectations and state behavior by highlighting human rights hotspots – areas that have experienced the most volatility in human rights conditions over the last five years. This virtual event will take place on Friday, November 13th, from 10:00 to 11:00 am. The Zoom meeting link can be found here. 
An image from a Colombian protest against FARC

Closed Doors Open for Talks?

In a large number of contemporary peace processes in civil wars voices have been raised to involve stakeholders from civil society, such as women’s groups, human rights groups, or religious associations. What do we know about how civil society participation – both inside and outside of the formal peace negotiations – can help sustain peace efforts?
As part of the Center's Global Security Lecture Series, Dr. Desiree Nilsson, Associate Professor at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Sweden, will present her recent work on this issue describing the actors involved and their roles during peace processes such as mass demonstrations or attendance at peace talks. This virtual event will take place on Monday, November 16th, from 1:00 to 2:00 pm. The Zoom meeting link can be found here. 


The Coronavirus-19 Outbreak Response Experts (CORE-19) team at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is a network of researchers in public health, economics, public policy, agriculture, veterinary medicine, and other disciplines who seek to provide timely information for the public and policymakers on pressing questions regarding the global pandemic. Researchers at the Center are working closely with the CORE-19 team to create a series of policy briefs forecasting the health and economic impacts of the virus. For up-to-date, well-researched information on COVID-19 visit
TN pulse survey logo

TN Pulse Survey: Consumer Sentiment Data collected for the TN Economic Recovery Group

The Tennessee Pulse is a cooperative effort of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s Economic Recovery Group, the University of Tennessee’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy and the Social Work Office of Research and Public Service (SWORPS), which is designed to capture the attitudes and behaviors of Tennesseans toward COVID-19 and the re-opening of the economy. The survey enables segmentation across a grouping of the state’s largest metropolitan counties (Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby and Sullivan) and the remaining 89 counties of the state, as well as age, gender, and race. Results will be collected and published throughout the summer. 
Wave 6 of the survey was administered between September 18 and September 23, 2020. See the results here.
Time Series results of the survey are also available. See the results here.
More information on the TN Pulse Survey and access to future results, visit

Vols Vote 2020

Globe with images of rebel fighters overlayed

High Voter Turnout in Knoxville

The Vols Vote Coalition is a campus-wide effort that was led by the Howard Baker Center and the Libraries, with partners and support from the Chancellor’s Office, Dean of Students, Student Union, Multicultural Life Center, Athletics, Student Government Association, Baker
Ambassadors, Haslam Honors and Scholars Program, Law School, Media & Communications, Facility and Parking Services, as well as faculty and staff volunteers.
On the last four days of early voting in Knoxville, the Baker Center served as a fully functional polling location. 4,651 individuals came to vote at the Howard Baker Center! The Center was also a precinct on Election Day. 
Useful Links:

Additional Information: 

Want to join the coalition? Have questions, comments, or suggestions?

Research and Teaching

SMART logo


Dr. Katie Cahill, Associate Director of the Howard Baker Center, and Dr. Carole Myers, an expert on the CORE-19 team, are members of the recently announced SMART Policy Network steering committee. The Substance Misuse and Addiction Resource for Tennessee (SMART) Policy Network, "will provide user-friendly and accessible data visualizations on substance misuse prevention, recovery and treatment metrics for Tennessee communities" in order to allow communities and policymakers to make informed decisions. Read more about this new initiative here.
COVID funds

COVID-19 recovery funds dwarf clean energy investment needs 

Energy & Environment Fellow Dr. David McCollum of the Electric Power Research Institute will be published Science, one of the world's top academic journals.  His study finds that the ambitious path of the Paris agreement is well within reach if just a tenth of COVID-19 funding is invested in a ‘climate-positive’ recovery, with the dual aims of stimulating the global economy and accelerating the deployment of low-carbon energy supply and energy efficiency measures. Read more about the study here.
Personal Protection Equipment, such as gloves, hand sanitizer, and a mask

"Real Time" Research on COVID-19 

Dr. Charles Sims, Director of the Energy & Environment Program, was recently published in "COVID Economics: Vetted and Real-Time Papers," a journal from the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) Press. Dr. Sim's paper, "Uncertainty, Hysteresis, and Lockdowns" discusses a timeline for reopening which accounts for uncertainty in transmission and the economic impact of social distancing procedures. You can read the article here. 
testing water quality

New Studies Published in White Paper Series

Students in the Environmental Science and Policy Practicum course with the Conservation Science Group recently published reports in the Howard Baker Center White Paper Series. The paper, "The State of Surface Water Quality in Knox County," details the student-developed coding system designed to assess water quality issues in Knoxville and beyond. The authors of the other article, "The Value of an Integrated Statewide Environmental Report for Tennessee," discuss environmental indicators that should be included in a statewide environmental report. The White Paper Series explores current issues and offers research results, literature reviews, and suggestions for further research, all of which can be used to inform citizens and decision-making at all levels of society.

Honoring Senator Baker

Image of Senator Howard Baker from the Watergate hearings

PBS Remembers Senator Baker on its 50th Anniversary 

This year, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is celebrating its 50th anniversary. In 1973, PBS aired all 250 hours of testimony from the Watergate hearings. Senator Baker's impact on the hearings is highlighted in this New York Times article commemorating PBS's legacy. During this election season, the Howard Baker Center sponsored all election coverage by East Tennessee PBS this fall in lieu of hosting in-person election events this fall. Produced by PBS, Howard Baker's message of civility began broadcasting across East Tennessee in early August and continued to air until the Election; the thirty second spot can be viewed here. Another variation, produced for the Democratic and Republican Conventions can be viewed here.

Get involved with the Baker Center!

Students walking with Senator Lamar Alexander

Get Involved with the Baker Center! 

The Center is a home for civic engagement for students in all disciplines and at all levels. Through programs, events and lectures, and helpful faculty and staff, the Center aims to engage the community on the topics of Global Security, Leadership & Governance, and Energy & Environment. Learn more at

Here are some ways you can get involved:

Contact Us
Howard H. Baker Jr Center for Public Policy
1640 Cumberland Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996
Phone: 865-974-0931
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