Evaluating How NYC “Wait” Pilot Program Inspires and Induces Behavioral Change

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kent Messer

Professional Staff Mentor: Dr. Olesya Savchenko

Research Description:

Water quality problems are primarily human behavior problems. Thus, improving water quality conditions is fundamentally about changing human behavior. Using insights from behavioral sciences grounded in field experimental designs, UD researchers will work with program staff at the NYC Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Environmental Planning & Analysis (BEPA) to develop and test an innovative educational, outreach, and research program. This program will be an extension of NYC’s “Wait” Program, which is a decision-support tool that is designed to improve urban water management. We will measure key performance indicators and metrics related to levels of program enrollment and changes in water use behavior induced by the program.

Through a series of collaborative studies, we seek to develop evidence that will help guide the BEPA and/or related groups to effectively implement and expand the “Wait” Program. These studies will enable those associated with the “Wait” Program to establish themselves as leading voices in reducing water pollution caused by combined sewer overflows (CSOs) through the implementation of various forms of environmental education that can generate positive long-term environmental impacts.

Research Questions:

  1. What behavioral “nudges” can encourage continued participation in and compliance with the “Wait” Program?
  2. How effective are the behavioral interventions aimed at increasing enrollment in the “Wait” Program?
  3. What are the behavioral impacts of using different text messages to motivate participants to reduce their water use during CSO events?

Research Interns will be engaged primarily with the research project described above, but interns will have opportunities to be involved in other projects that are part of the Social Dimensions research for Project WiCCED (projectwicced.org); See Internship Descriptions for the following projects to learn about other Social Dimensions research opportunities:

  • Computer Programming for Economic Experiments
  • Social Networks and Oyster Consumption
  • Experimental economics study of groundwater management
  • Enhancing Farmers’ Adoption of Decision Support Tools to Improve Irrigation Management in Delaware

Student Learning Objectives:  Professional and Research Skills

This internship focuses on the development of the following professional and scientific skills.


Broad Professional Skills

Specific Skills

Planning and time management

Ability to set and complete specific foals of varying scope

Express ideas in writing

Write descriptions of research procedures, create a poster of your research, communicate via email professionally and in a timely and consistent fashion

Express ideas verbally

Discuss research activity in lab meetings, present poster at symposium

Work independently

Independent work ethic – work independently or with peers to problem solve

Develop professional network

Work with lab team and broader Social Dimensions and Project WiCCED team to develop professional network, and utilize peer-groups to problem solve.

Maintain professional attitude and work principles (i.e. integrity, responsibility, diligence, following ethical standards)

Be on time, learn procedures, ask questions if unsure, respect everyone you work with, complete and maintain Institutional Review Board (IRB) Certification to work with human subjects in research


Broad Scientific Research Skills

Specific Skills

Understand scientific terms

Behavioral, experimental and environmental economics

Locate scientific articles and resources

Conduct searches for literature on environmental valuation

Understand research questions


Read and understand research articles

Synthesize complex ideas and information from the literature

Apply research tools and techniques in research experiments

Participate in the development of and data collection of surveys to quantify willingness to pay for water quality improvements.

Understand, apply, and explain scientific concepts and theories

In lab meetings, with lab personnel, and during research symposium



Introductory experience with economics (e.g., successful completion of APEC 100, APEC 150, ECON 101, or similar course)


Work Environment and Expectations:

Office/economics laboratory environment:  Work will primarily take place in 025 Townsend Hall. Hours are flexibly determined between student and mentor. Students will work part time during the fall and spring semesters, and full time during UD Winter Session, January 7-February 8, 2019. Students will also participate in a retreat, communications workshop, and end-of-internship spring symposium.