Debra Knopman

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Debra Knopman is an adjunct engineer at RAND, co-chair of the board of the Henry Luce Foundation, and a professor of policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School.

She served as vice president and director of RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment from 2004 to 2014, and as principal researcher from 2014 to 2022.

Knopman's expertise is in hydrology, environmental and natural resources policy, systems analysis, and public administration. RAND projects include studies of adaptation of urban regions to a changing climate, long-term water management, capability development planning for the Air Force, policy options for nuclear waste disposal, and organizational design for R&D.

She served for six years (1997–2003) as a member of the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board and chaired the board's Site Characterization Panel. She directed the Progressive Policy Institute's Center for Innovation and the Environment from 1995 to 2000. From 1993 to 1995, Knopman was the deputy assistant secretary for Water and Science, U.S. Department of the Interior. She was a research hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and later chief of the Branch of Systems Analysis in the USGS's Water Resources Division. From 1979 to 1983, she served first as legislative assistant for energy and environmental issues to Senator Daniel P. Moynihan and then as professional staff member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Knopman earned her Ph.D. in geography and environmental engineering from the Johns Hopkins University, and her M.S.C.E. from MIT.


Ph.D. in geography and environmental engineering, Johns Hopkins University; M.S. in civil engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; B.A. in chemistry, Wellesley College

Concurrent Non-RAND Positions

Co-chair of Board of Trustees, Henry Luce Foundation; Member of the Board of The Asia Foundation; Member of the U.S. National Member Organization Committee of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

Selected Work

  • Clancy, Noreen, Melissa L. Finucane, Jordan R. Fischbach, David G. Groves, Debra Knopman, Karishma V. Patel, and Lloyd Dixon, The Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Mitigation Grant Program: Incorporating Hazard Risk and Social Equity into Decisionmaking Processes, RAND (RR-A1258), 2022
  • Miller, Benjamin M., Debra Knopman, Liisa Ecola, Brian Phillips, Moon Kim, Nathaniel Edenfield, Daniel Schwam, and Diogo Prosdocimi, U.S. Airport Infrastructure Funding and Financing: Issues and Policy Options Pursuant to Section 122 of the 2018 Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act, RAND (RR-3175), 2020
  • Fischbach, Jordan R., Debra Knopman, Heather Smith, Philip Orton, Eric W. Sanderson, Kim Fisher, Nerissa Moray, Adam Friedberg, and Adam Parris, Building Resilience in an Urban Coastal Environment: Integrated, Science-Based Planning in Jamaica Bay, New York, RAND Corporation (RR-2193-RF), 2018
  • Groves, David G., Debra Knopman, Neil Berg, Craig A. Bond, James Syme, and Robert J. Lempert, , Adapting Land Use and Water Management Plans to a Changing Climate in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, Florida, RAND (RR-1932), 2018
  • Knopman, Debra, Martin Wachs, Benjamin M. Miller, Scott G. Davis, and Katherine Pfrommer, Not Everything Is Broken: The Future of U.S. Transportation and Water Infrastructure Funding and Finance, RAND Corporation (RR-1739-RC), 2017
  • Knopman, Debra, Robert J. Lempert, Urban Responses to Climate Change: Framework for Decisionmaking and Supporting Indicators, RAND Corporation (RR-1144-MCF), 2016
  • Groves, D.G., J.R. Fischbach, D. Knopman, D.R. Johnson and K. Giglio, Strengthening Coastal Planning: How Coastal Regions Could Benefit from Louisiana's Planning and Analysis Framework, RAND Corporation (RR-437), 2014
  • Davis, L.E., D. Knopman, M. Greenberg, L. Miller, and A. Doll., Choosing a New Organization for Management and Disposition of Used Nuclear Fuel and Defense High-level Nuclear Waste, RAND Corporation (MG-1230), 2012

Authored by Debra Knopman

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