Return on Investment (Summer 2013 Trust Magazine)

Source Organization: The Pew Charitable Trusts

07/15/2013 - The Pew Charitable Trusts’ program investments seek to improve policy, inform the public, and stimulate civic life through operating projects managed by Pew staff, donor partnerships that allow us to work closely with individuals or organizations to achieve shared goals, and targeted grantmaking. Following are highlights of some recent Pew work. To learn more, go to

The Environment

Science will help guide Pacific fisheries management

The Pacific Fishery Management Council unanimously adopted a fishery ecosystem plan that protects unmanaged forage fish—small fish at the bottom of the ocean food web—because of their importance as prey for other marine animals. The plan, for fisheries off the West Coast, enhances management through science-based research and consideration of ecosystem factors such as the ocean food web and habitat. Pew organized public support for the plan among residents, seafood suppliers, fishermen, and ecotourism businesses.

European Parliament seeks to rebuild fish stocks by 2020

The European Parliament voted in favor of the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy, which guides all fisheries management on the continent. The changes seek an end to overfishing by 2015 and the rebuilding of EU fish stocks to sustainable levels by 2020. Pew led the 178-member OCEAN2012 coalition to build public support for the vote, which was a significant milestone in the ongoing reform of fisheries management in European waters.

Wildlife habitat protected in Alaska

The Obama administration took action to protect 11 million acres of the 23 million-acre National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, home to caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, polar bears, seals, and migratory birds. Although much of the reserve will be open to exploration and drilling, its most important ecological and subsistence lands will remain undeveloped. Pew has spent more than a decade working on protection for the region.

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument created in New Mexico

The Obama administration designated 240,000 acres in northern New Mexico as the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Pew built bipartisan community support for safeguarding the area, which is home to the 200-foot-deep, 150-foot-wide Rio Grande Gorge, one of the world’s great migratory bird routes.

Boreal protections in Canada

Manitoba protected 1.3 million acres of boreal forest, wetlands, and waterways that are part of the more than 10 million acres of Pimachiowin Aki lands slated to become a United Nations World Heritage site. Pew worked with the provincial government, the indigenous First Nations, and conservation groups as part of its ongoing campaign to protect the boreal, which plays a critical role in removing carbon from the Earth’s atmosphere.

Australia expands land management and adds protections 

Despite budgetary constraints, the Australian government provided $320 million to continue an indigenous ranger program. The rangers employ more than 680 indigenous people, and Pew worked with the government to win the funding as part of a strategy to empower Aboriginal people to protect and manage their lands. The government and the Martu, the Aboriginal people who are the traditional owners of the Central Desert, also created the Birriliburu Indigenous Protected Area, a region of more than 16 million acres in Western Australia’s outback. Biologically diverse and culturally significant, the Birriliburu joins a network of 54 indigenous protected areas that total an area larger than California.

In the States

Criminal justice reforms in South Dakota

South Dakota enacted sentencing and corrections reforms that will reduce recidivism and save taxpayers $200 million over the next decade. Pew’s public safety performance project analyzed prison population growth and cost increases to develop data-driven policy recommendations for a bipartisan working group of state officials that developed the legislation. A portion of the savings will be invested in programs that have proved to reduce the number of repeat offenders.

Georgia approves juvenile corrections overhaul

Lawmakers in Georgia unanimously passed a juvenile corrections law that is intended to cut crime and save taxpayers $85 million over the next five years. Some of the savings will be invested in programs shown to reduce recidivism. In partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Pew’s public safety performance project worked with policymakers to develop legislation to eliminate the need for two additional juvenile residential facilities. Another new law grants judges more discretion in some cases involving mandatory minimum sentences and creates an oversight council for the adult and juvenile justice systems to measure the effects of the reforms.

Kentucky passes pension changes

Kentucky lawmakers gave bipartisan approval to changes in the pension system for state and local employees. The legislation, now signed into law, included all of Pew’s recommendations for improving the underfunded pension plan, an issue for many state and local governments. The law includes:

  • A commitment by the state to pay the full amount it owes into the pension system each year alongside a funding plan that raises nearly $100 million a year to help meet this promise.
  • A limit on future cost-of-living adjustments unless the benefit can be fully paid for.
  • A new retirement plan that uses a hybrid cash balance design in which new workers accumulate retirement savings from both employer and employee contributions, receive a guaranteed 4 percent investment return, and retire with a lifetime benefit based on the account balance.
New home visiting systems for five states

Using Pew recommendations, lawmakers in Kentucky, Arkansas, New Mexico, Vermont, and Texas created five of the most effective, accountable home visiting systems in the nation. The laws ensure that the states’ investments are directed to programs that are known to achieve successful results for children and families. They also require that home visiting programs track and measure outcomes such as improvements in maternal and infant health, family self-sufficiency, and school readiness. Votes in the Kentucky and Arkansas legislatures were unanimous.

The Economy

Economic mobility presentation on Capitol Hill

Pew’s economic mobility project and the Lumina Foundation hosted a Capitol Hill event with the Senate Economic Mobility Caucus to discuss the importance of postsecondary education. The bipartisan session included speakers from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, the American Enterprise Institute, and the New School. The economic mobility caucus organizes quarterly events that highlight Pew’s research.


New incentives for antibiotic development

With congressional passage of the Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now Act, which Pew championed, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has extended exclusivity rights for at least five new antibiotics in development. This exclusivity is intended to motivate drug companies as they work through the long development and review process for new antibiotics and ensure that lifesaving medicines are available for patients.

Assessing the health impact of a California energy plant

A demonstration project supported by Pew’s Health Impact Project analyzed plans for a biomass energy facility in Placer County, CA, that will be fueled with wood chips and pine needles being cleared to reduce forest fires in the region. The analysis found that the energy plant will probably benefit community health through improvements in air quality and reductions in wildfires. Local officials said the health impact assessment would be a useful model for other communities studying alternative-energy technologies.

Pew biomedical scholars receive more honors

Pew biomedical scholars are recognized for showing promise in science that advances human health, and many earn additional honors as their careers continue. Jeff Gore, a 2011 scholar, won the Paul Allen Distinguished Investigators Award to Unlock Fundamental Questions in Biology. He will use his grant to explore how ideas from game theory can provide insight into cellular decision-making. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences also awarded Gore a four-year grant to conduct a similar study focused on antibiotic resistance.
Stephen Elledge, a 1991 scholar, is one of six winners of the Canada Gairdner International Awards, which recognize some of the most significant medical discoveries around the world. With his prize, Elledge will study how DNA responds to damage with the hope of integrating his findings with new cancer therapies.

Pew Research Center

What do you know about science?

The Pew Research Center and Smithsonian magazine published a joint report about public knowledge of science, technology, and perceptions of science education. It found that the public’s knowledge varies widely across a range of questions on current topics and basic scientific concepts. Eighty-three percent of Americans identify ultraviolet as the type of radiation that sunscreen protects against. About half—51 percent—know that “fracking” is a process that extracts natural gas from the earth. Along with the report, the center released an online quiz that allows users to test their knowledge of science facts. So far, it has been taken more than 1 million times.

The public’s priorities: The economy, jobs, deficit

As President Barack Obama began his second term, a Pew Research survey showed that the public’s top priorities for the president and Congress were strengthening the economy, improving the job situation, and reducing the budget deficit. As the sequester deadline approached, the first report from the center’s new partnership with USA Today  found that 40 percent of Americans believed it would be better to let the automatic spending cuts go into effect if the president and Congress could not reach a deficit reduction agreement before the deadline, and 49 percent said it would be better to delay the cuts.

Net worth of wealthiest rises

A Pew Research analysis of new Census Bureau data shows that during the first two years of the economic recovery, the net worth of households in the upper 7 percent of U.S. wealth distribution rose by an estimated 28 percent, while the net worth of the lower 93 percent dropped by an estimated 4 percent. These results were driven by the rich having a much higher share of their wealth in financial assets during a time of rising bond and stock markets and a declining housing market.

Muslims deeply committed to their faith

Pew Research published a report from its Global Survey of Islam, based on more than 38,000 face-to-face interviews in 39 countries and territories. The survey, part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project, found that most Muslims around the globe are deeply committed to their faith and want its teachings to shape not only their personal lives but also their societies and politics. At the same time, even in many countries where there is strong backing for sharia, or Islamic law, most Muslims favor religious freedom for people of other faiths.

U.S.-born immigrant children thrive

Pew Research examined the demographic characteristics, attitudes, behaviors, and experiences of the 20 million adult U.S.-born children of immigrants and found that second-generation Americans are substantially better off than immigrants themselves on key measures of socioeconomic attainment. They have higher incomes; more are college graduates and homeowners; and fewer live in poverty. In all of these measures, their characteristics resemble those of the full U.S. adult population.

Pew Research at the Vatican

Brian Grim, a senior researcher and director of cross-national data with the Pew Research Forum on Religion & Public Life, gave several presentations at the Vatican about global restrictions on religion and religious demography, culminating in a talk at the TEDx conference “Religious Freedom in Today’s World.” Grim briefed the Vatican secretariat of state, the Vatican press secretary, a senior judge from the Vatican’s High Canon Law Court, a senior member of the Vatican Secret Archives, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Pontifical Council for the Family, and presidents of two major pontifical universities.


Taxes: Past, present, and future

Pew and the Center on Regional Politics at Temple University sponsored a symposium, “Philadelphia Taxes: Past, Present and Future.” More than 150 Philadelphians listened to elected officials, academics, economists, and business leaders talk about the city’s tax structure, its impact on the local economy, and ideas for reforming it.

Pew helps with a literary merger

The Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation and the Rosenbach Museum & Library announced that they would merge. The Free Library’s collection includes such items as Edgar Allan Poe’s papers, and the Rosenbach’s works include Bram Stoker’s notes for Dracula. Funded in part by Pew, the affiliation will create one of the greatest collections of rare books, manuscripts, Americana, and art in the world.

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