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ToxicDocs and A People’s EPA: Advancing Environmental and Climate Justice through Interdisciplinary Research and Open Access Initiatives

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Open Access Week Climate Justive Event

In this virtual panel presentation in honor of “International Open Access Week: Open for Climate Justice,” Dr. Jessica Varner (University of Southern California) and Dr. Merlin Chowkwanyun (Columbia University) come together to discuss their unique interdisciplinary research in the intersections of environmental history, public health history, and industrial pollution, and the ways in which their research both relies upon and generates open-access information. The panel will be moderated by Dr. Philip Cohen (University of Maryland).

Dr. Varner’s and Dr. Chowkwanyun’s innovative work led to the creation of two resources which will be highlighted during the session. Toxic Docs, a project based at Columbia University and the City University of New York, is a dataset and website that contains millions of pages of once-secret corporate documents about asbestos, polyvinyl chloride, benzene, silica, and lead. A People’s EPA is an extensive website that provides a straightforward public history of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) programs, explains how the EPA works, and provides data and tools for users to explore and track the EPA in greater depth.

The researchers’ passion for making information and data about the environment and industrial pollution openly available can serve as inspirational examples for others who wish to advance climate justice in their communities.


This virtual event is co-sponsored by the UMD Libraries and the UMD School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation.

This event is free and open to the public. UMD Libraries welcomes individuals with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. Automatic captions will be available for this virtual event. If you have questions about the access provided, please contact If you would like to request specific accommodations, please contact at least two weeks in advance of your participation.


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