Press Releases

2003 Releases

James K. Hammitt Named New Director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis

For immediate release:  November 17, 2003

Boston, MA— James Hammitt, professor of economics and decision sciences in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), has been named the new Director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis (HCRA). The Center is widely considered an international leader in the development and application of the tools of decision science to help identify reasoned approaches to public health and environmental risks.

“Ten years ago, I was attracted to HSPH by the opportunity to work with faculty at HCRA who are pioneers in finding ways to make the conceptual tools of decision sciences practical and useful for helping us deal with health and environmental risks. It is an honor to be named to lead this outstanding group,” Hammitt said.

"Everyone who knows James Hammitt is impressed by the extraordinary breadth and depth of his scholarly and intellectual work and the originality of his work,” said Barry R. Bloom, Dean of the School. “We are indeed privileged to have him as a senior member of our faculty and leader of one of the really special interdisciplinary Centers within the School.”

“HCRA ‘s application of decision science to the analysis of complex problems dealing with risks to public heath and the environment plays an important role at our University and in our society,” said Howard Raiffa, Harvard University's Frank P. Ramsey Professor of Managerial Economics Emeritus, and a pioneer in the field of decision analysis. Raiffa added “Jim Hammitt has strong academic credentials, hands-on experience both at RAND and at HCRA, an intense interest in developing the “science” of decision science, an independent “voice” not overly influenced by special interest groups, an interest in broadening the base of faculty involvement in HCRA on both sides of the Charles, and a desire to communicate to policy makers. I believe Jim Hammitt is the right person for this demanding job.”

Hammitt said of his plans: "One of my objectives is for HCRA to contribute critical thinking to the management of a broader range of public-health risks, including post-9/11 terrorism, the development of drug-resistant strains of bacteria, and the emergence of new threats like BSE (mad cow disease) and SARS. We will continue our work on environmental pollution, food safety, and the detection and treatment of cancer, heart disease, and sexually transmitted diseases. Increasingly, we are helping to address health risks outside the United States, including AIDS in Africa, air pollution in Mexico and China, and the effects of war in Kuwait.

"Another objective is to expand our collaborations with scientists at Harvard University and other institutions, nationally and abroad,” Hammitt continued. “Our work is improved by exposure to alternative approaches and by working with experts in medicine, environmental science, international health, biostatistics, epidemiology, toxicology, nutrition, law, and other fields that provide the needed inputs for evaluating specific real-world problems.

"A third objective is to further broaden the intellectual diversity at HCRA by recruiting new faculty. I am particularly interested in adding strength in behavioral decision making, cognition, risk perception and communication. Experts in these fields will help us better understand how the public perceives and manages health risks and what interventions can be most beneficial."

Hammitt succeeds John Graham, Ph.D., the founding director of HCRA and now Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the Office of Management and Budget, part of the Executive Office of the President of the United States. Following Graham’s departure in 2001, George M. Gray, Ph.D., Lecturer in Risk Analysis, served as HCRA’s acting director. Gray will continue to serve in the new post of Executive Director. Gray will have responsibility for HCRA’s operational management and will play a key role in efforts to develop financial support. Hammitt said "George Gray has provided outstanding stewardship of HCRA during his two years as acting director. I am delighted that he has agreed to serve in the newly created position of executive director."

Hammitt’s research and teaching concern the development of decision analysis, benefit-cost analysis, game theory, and other quantitative methods and their application to health and environmental policy in the United States and internationally. His research includes work on global climate change, the risks of pesticides and other contaminants in food, and the cost-effectiveness of air pollution control strategies. He also studies ways to measure the value
of reducing health risks, including monetary and health-adjusted-life-year metrics.

Hammitt is co-founder and co-director with John Evans, senior lecturer on environmental science, of the graduate program on Environmental Science and Risk Management. He is director of the continuing education course "Analyzing Regulations: Health, Safety and the Environment." He is a Faculty Fellow of the Environmental Economics Program at Harvard University, a Fellow of the Kennedy School of Government’s Center for Business and Government and a member of the Faculty Steering Committee for its Regulatory Policy Program. He is a member of the Harvard University Center for the Environment and its China Project, the Harvard University Committee on Advanced Degrees in Health Policy, a member of the Environmental Economics Advisory Committee and the Advisory Council on Clear Air Compliance Analysis of the EPA Science Advisory Board, and of the Winthrop House Senior Common Room at Harvard College.

He recently concluded service as a member of the American Statistical Association Committee on Energy Statistics (Advisory Committee to the U.S. Energy Information Administration) and the National Academy of Sciences panel on "Implications of Dioxin in the Food Supply.

Hammitt holds degrees in Applied Mathematics (A.B., Sc.M.) and Public Policy (M.P.P., Ph.D.) from Harvard University. He was previously Senior Mathematician at the RAND Corporation and a faculty member at the RAND Graduate School of Policy Studies.

For further information please contact:
David Ropeik
Harvard Center for Risk Analysis