March 25, 2017

Prof. Emeritus Karlene Roberts to Advise U.S. Marine Board


Karlene Roberts, Haas Professor Emeritus

Beginning in 2013, Haas Professor Emeritus Karlene Roberts will serve a three-year appointment as an advisory member to the United States Marine Board. Roberts’ role will be to examine issues related to maritime transportationports, channels, inland water, seawaysand the environment. She will also help the Marine Board identify research needs.

The Marine Board of the National Research Council (NRC) is part of the Transportation Research Board. The Marine Board has provided expertise on maritime transportation and marine engineering and technology since1965.

"Berkeley engineering professors have been on the Marine Board before and I’m told I will be the first social scientist on the board," says Roberts. "It's important because it is the maritime industry's and the government's recognition that maritime problems are not just technological problems, but have social and environmental implications such as BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill crisis."

In October, Roberts attended a meeting about maritime practices in the Arctic. According to Roberts, the Marine Board faces the challenge of getting a majority of U.S. legislators to understand that our nation is an Arctic one. "Because of climate change, the Arctic is dramatically changing, uncovering millions of dollars of minerals that will be mined (including oil) and providing shipping routes that have never before been available. All of this has to be managed with sensitivity because of the vast number of safety problems that will arise. My contribution will be to increase performance reliability and safety," says Roberts.

Roberts is a faculty member of Haas’ Management of Organizations (MORS) group. Throughout her career, she has applied her expertise in the design and management of organizations to serve the national interest. She studies organizational systems that have the potential to cause disaster or catastrophic results. By examining organizations’ successes and failures, Roberts advises on systematic strategies to mitigate crises in industries such as military, health care, railroads, petroleum production, commercial aviation, banking, and community emergency services.

"Some handle crisis right and some have big, disastrous outcomes. My favorite example of getting it right is pilot Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger, who successfully landed his commercial aircraft into the Hudson River in January 2009 and is now a respected speaker on airline safety," Roberts says. "The best example of an organization that did not get it so right is BP. BP was responsible for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and a Texas City refinery explosion just five years earlier."

Roberts also served on the NRC’s Standing Committee on Human Factors (1997-2003), Committee on Work Environments for Nurses and Patient Safety (2002-2003), Committee on Aerospace Medicine and Medicine in Extreme Environments (2004-2005), and Committee on Core Competencies for Federal Facilities Asset Management, and most recently, contributed to the Bureau of Reclamation Security Study (2007-2008).

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