Adam M. Finkel

Adam M. Finkel, Sc.D., CIH

Clinical Professor of Environmental Health Sciences

University of Michigan School of Public Health

Contact information


Dr. Adam M. Finkel is  Clinical Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. From 2008 to 2017, he was Executive Director of the Penn Program on Regulation, where he was also a Senior Fellow at the Penn Law School. From 2004 to 2008, he was a Visiting Professor of Public and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, and Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at the UMDNJ School of Public Health. From 2000 to 2003, Dr. Finkel was Regional Administrator for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in Denver, Colorado, responsible for OSHA’s regulatory enforcement, compliance assistance, and outreach activities in the six-state Rocky Mountain region (Region VIII). Prior to that (1995-2000), he was Director of Health Standards Programs at OSHA headquarters, and was responsible for promulgating and evaluating risk-based regulations to protect the nation’s workers from chemical, radiological, and biological hazards.

Dr. Finkel holds an Sc.D. in environmental health sciences from the Harvard School of Public Health, a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, an A.B. in biology from Harvard College, and is a Certified Industrial Hygienist. Dr. Finkel has pioneered methodological improvements in human health risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis for the past 30 years, primarily in the areas of quantitative uncertainty analysis, accounting for interindividual variability in susceptibility, and designing regulatory processes to maximize stakeholder input and shed light on economic and employment impacts. He is one of three scholars who served on both the “Blue Book” (1994) and “Silver Book” (2009) committees of the National Academy of Sciences convened to evaluate EPA’s risk assessment methods. He is co-author of four books, including the 2014 volume Does Regulation Kill Jobs? (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press). In 2006, he received the David P. Rall Award for Advocacy in Public Health from the American Public Health Association, for “a career in advancing science in the service of public health protection.” In 2013, he received the Alumni Leadership in Public Health Practice award from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Finkel’s broad research interests reflect his interdisciplinary training and experience in environmental health, public administration, economics, law, and decision theory—all applied to the quantitative assessment of risks to health, safety, and the environment and to regulatory designs to ameliorate these risks in fair and cost-effective ways. He has pioneered methods to quantify uncertainty and interindividual variability in cost-benefit analysis, and to elicit public preferences for regulatory interventions that affect longevity and economic welfare. He has worked on a wide spectrum of hazards, ranging from workplace carcinogens to global climate change, to the benefits and risks of synthetic biology and its applications, to the problem of neurotrauma in professional football. He conceived the idea for “enforceable partnerships” at the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, wherein industry groups, their customers, and their employees jointly craft codes of practice that government can agree to monitor in lieu of traditional regulation. He is an advocate for the new paradigm of “solution-focused risk assessment,” wherein analysts and decision-makers collaborate to propose and evaluate ambitious solutions to multiple risks, rather than to assess risks in a vacuum and declare only aspirational goals to lower them by unspecified means.


Finkel, Adam M. (2018). “A Health Public Cannot Abide Unhealthy and Unsafe Workplaces.” Invited essay, American Journal of Public Health, 108(3): 312-313, March 2018.

Finkel, Adam M. (2018). “Demystifying Evidence-Based Policy Analysis by Revealing Hidden Value-Laden Constraints.” In Governance of Emerging Technologies: Aligning Policy Analysis with the Public’s Values, Gregory E. Kaebnick and Michael K. Gusmano, eds., Hastings Center Report, 48(S1): S21-S49.

Finkel, Adam M. and George M. Gray (2018). “Taking the Reins: How Decision-Makers Can Stop Being Hijacked by Uncertainty.” Forthcoming, Environment Systems and Decisions.

Finkel, Adam M. and Kevin F. Bieniek (2018). “A Quantitative Risk Assessment for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in Football: How Public Health Science Evaluates Evidence.” Forthcoming, Human and Ecological Risk Assessment.

Finkel, Adam M., and Branden B. Johnson (2018). “The Limits of Self-Interest: Results from a Novel Stated-Preference Survey to Estimate the Social Benefits of Life-Prolonging Regulations.” Forthcoming, Environmental Law (Lewis & Clark Law School).

Finkel, Adam M., Christopher R. Deubert, Orly Lobel, I. Glenn Cohen, and Holly Fernandez Lynch (2018). “The NFL as a Workplace: The Prospect of Applying Occupational Health and Safety Laws to Protect NFL Workers.” Forthcoming, Arizona Law Review.

Finkel, A.M., D. Walters, and A. Corbett (2018). “Planning for Excellence: Insights from an International Review of Regulators’ Strategic Plans.” Forthcoming, Pace Environmental Law Review.

Johnson, Branden B., and Adam M. Finkel (2016). “Public Perceptions of Regulatory Costs, Their Uncertainty and Interindividual Distribution,” Risk Analysis, 36(6): 1148-1170, June 2016.

Finkel, A.M. (2016). “Beyond Best-in-Class: Three Secrets to Regulatory Excellence.” Chapter 11 (pp. 166-187) in Cary Coglianese, ed., Achieving Regulatory Excellence, Brookings Institution Press, Washington, DC, 322 pp.

Cranor, Carl F., and Adam M. Finkel (2016). “Toward the Usable Recognition of Individual Benefits and Costs in Regulatory Analysis and Governance.” Regulation and Governance, in press (DOI:10.1111/rego.12128).

Ferson, Scott, A. Antonenko, J. O’Rawe, J. Siegrist, J. Mickley, C. Luhmann, K. Sentz, C. Parles, and A.M. Finkel (2015). “Natural Language of Uncertainty: Numeric Hedge Words.” International Journal of Approximate Reasoning, 57: 19-39.

Finkel, A.M. (2014). “The Cost of Nothing Trumps the Value of Everything: The Failure of Regulatory Economics to Keep Pace with Improvements in Quantitative Risk Analysis.” Michigan Journal of Environmental and Administrative Law, 4(1): 91-156.

Finkel, A.M. (2014). “EPA Underestimates, Oversimplifies, Miscommunicates, and Mismanages Cancer Risks by Ignoring Human Susceptibility.” Risk Analysis,34(10): 1785-1794, October 2014.

Coglianese, C., A.M. Finkel, and C. Carrigan, eds. (2014). Does Regulation Kill Jobs? University of Pennsylvania Press, 312 pp., ISBN-13: 978-0812245769.

Finkel, A.M. (2014). “Emitting More Light than Heat: Lessons from Risk Assessment Controversies for the ‘Job-Killing Regulations’ Debate.” Chapter 7 in Coglianese et al., supra.

Finkel, A.M. (2012). “Harvesting the Ripe Fruit: Why is it So Hard to be Well-Informed at the Moment of Decision?” Chapter 3C (pp. 57-66) in The Value of Information: Methodological Frontiers and New Applications in Environment and Health, R. Laxminarayan and M.K. Macauley, eds., Springer Science & Business Media, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.

Coglianese, C., A.M. Finkel, and D. Zaring (2009), eds. Import Safety: Regulatory Governance in the Global Economy. University of Pennsylvania Press, ISBN 978-0-8122-4222-5, 224 pp.



Finkel, A.M. (2018). “Doubting the Health Harms of Air Pollution: Not a ‘Mistake,’ but not ‘Just Science’ either. Blogpost ( ).

Finkel, A.M. (2017). “It Takes ‘Alternative Math’ to Claim that Redistribution is Futile.” Essay in “The Regulatory Review,” March 16;

Finkel, A.M. (2016).   “Succeeding with the Cards You Are Dealt.” Essay in the collection “Is OSHA A Failed Agency—Or an Unheralded Success?”, The Environmental Forum, Sept./Oct. issue, pp. 44-51, available at

Finkel, A.M. (2014). “Regulatory Transparency Should be a Two-way Street.” Essay in, May 12, 2014.

Finkel, A.M. (2013). “Updating OSHA Inspection Policies.” Essay in, April 4, 2013.

Finkel, A.M. (2012). “Communicating Uncertainty.” Invited commentary in Issues in Science and Technology, Fall 2012, pp. 12-16.

Finkel, A.M. (2012). “A Missed Opportunity: The Ostrich Approach to Indoor Radon Exposure.” Essay in, May 7, 2012.

Finkel, A.M. (2011). “Is Humane Cost-Benefit Analysis Possible?” (book review of Regulating From Nowhere: Environmental Law and the Search for Objectivity, by Douglas A. Kysar). Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 53(1): 101-102, January.

“Beyond Best-in-Class.” Panel discussion on “How Regulators Can Excel,” Penn Law School (February 2017).

“Innovative Experiments to Explore the Possible Mis-estimation of the Net Benefits of Health and Safety Regulations.” Presented at the 36th Annual Meeting of the Society for Risk Analysis (December 2016).

“Governance Options for Reducing Concussion-Related Occupational Disease in Professional Football.” Invited presentation at Penn Law School (October 2016).

“Toxic Politics: The ‘Freedom’ to Experience Occupational Disease.” Invited presentation (“TEDx talk”) at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Alumni Weekend, (September 2016).

“Accounting for Small Business: The Challenge of Measuring the Cost of Regulation.” Invited presentation at the U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy, 40th Anniversary Symposium (June 2016).

“Disinfecting Cost-Benefit Analysis of Hidden Value-Laden Constraints.” Invited presentation at the Fourth Annual Conference on Governance of Emerging Technologies (May 2016).

“Risksplaining: A Counter-Productive Cottage Industry.” Invited presentation at Dow Chemical Co., Global Crisis Communications Network (March 2016).

“Solution-Focused Risk/Benefit Assessment for Gain-of-Function Experiments.” Invited presentation at Second National Academy of Sciences Symposium on Gain-of-Function Research (March 2016).

“Aged in the Bottle: It’s Time to Uncork the Supreme Court’s 1980 Gift to Risk Analysis and Public Protections.” Presented at the Society for Risk Analysis annual meeting (December 2015).

“Beyond ‘Best-in-Class’: Three Secrets to Regulatory Excellence.” Presented at the Society for Risk Analysis annual meeting, (December 2015).

“A Portfolio of Regulatory Responses to Confront Corporate (Mis)conduct.” Invited presentation at the Center for the Study of Business Ethics, Regulation, and Crime, University of Maryland (November 2015).

“What Does it Mean to ‘Overestimate Risk,’ and is Risk Assessment Really Guilty as Charged?” Invited presentation to the Environmental Health Sciences Dept., University of Michigan School of Public Health (November 2015).

“Ignoring Thresholds and Interindividual Susceptibility in Cancer Dose-Response: Errors of Opposite Sign and Different Merit?” Invited presentation to the Society for Risk Analysis, New England Chapter (October 2015).

“The Failures of Regulatory Economics to Understand and Communicate Uncertainty.” Invited presentation to the Regulatory Policy Program, Harvard Kennedy School of Government (October 2015).

“Public Service and Conscience: An HKS MPP Turns ‘Vindicated Whistleblower’.” Invited presentation to Harvard Kennedy School students (October 2015).