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Palmer Inducted as Distinguished Member, ASCE’s Highest Honor

Richard M. Palmer

Richard M. Palmer

Professor Richard M. Palmer, the head of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and the university director of the Northeast Climate Science Center, was formally inducted as a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) at its Celebration of Leaders Luncheon during the ASCE 2017 Convention, October 8-11, in New Orleans. Palmer was inducted “for his conceptual and practical contributions to applying structured decision analysis and participatory methods in managing conflict in water resources, including shared vision planning, and for methods addressing potential impacts of climate change in natural resource management.” See ASCE video in honor of Palmer’s induction »

As the ASCE video begins, “If ever you need a thorough schooling on the veracity of anthropogenic climate change, talk to Dr. Richard M. Palmer, Professional Engineer, diplomate in water resources engineering, and Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Dr. Palmer has made a name for himself as one of the pioneering engineers, tackling and mitigating the palpable effects of climate change.”

Distinguished Membership is the highest honor ASCE can bestow. ASCE notes that “A Distinguished Member is a person who has attained eminence in some branch of engineering or in the arts and sciences related thereto, including the fields of engineering education and construction."

As ASCE declares, “Consider it the Hall of Fame of civil engineering. The best of the best. Distinguished Membership status is reserved for the most eminent of civil engineers in the Society. There are only 228 Distinguished Members among the Society’s current membership of over 150,000 people.”

As Noel Pratt writes in a bio posted on ASCE News, “Palmer’s particular focuses are stakeholder conflict resolution using collaborative modeling processes and the potential impacts of a changing climate on water resource systems, an area in which he has become prominent in the past 15 years. In addition to developing new and innovative methods for addressing complex water-supply problems, he has applied these methods to tackling several real-world problems both nationally and internationally. He is widely known for his pioneering work in the 1970s with the Potomac River Basin Commission, where he simulated real-life water crises to engage water managers in drought and water resources systems planning.”

The bio goes on to say that Palmer is one of the leading researchers, educators, and practitioners of water resource systems analysis. He stands out as one of the few “who have paid special attention to supporting real decision makers and involving multiple stakeholders in planning and management of complex water systems. The tools he created have had a significant positive impact on water planning and management globally.”

Considered the “father” of the concept of shared vision planning, as the bio points out, Palmer worked with the Corps of Engineers in implementing these techniques at various locations throughout the U.S. “The discipline of shared visioning uniquely combines mathematical modeling within a decision-making process involving a wide range of stakeholders. His notion that computer models of water systems could be used more directly in decision making has transformed the practice.”

Palmer has authored more than 66 peer-reviewed publications, 75 conference proceedings, and has presented over 100 papers at conferences. He has received over $9 million in research funding during the past six years as principal or co-principal investigator. He was awarded the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship in 2015-16. UMass Amherst honored Palmer with its Chancellor’s Medal and also made him one of its University Distinguished Faculty Lecturers in 2014. ASCE has recognized him with the Julian Hinds Award and the Huber Award for Research Excellence, among others. (October 2017)