A committee of the National Research Council will assess the overall capabilities of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop, obtain, and use the best available new scientific and technological information and tools that will be needed to meet persistent, emerging, and future mission challenges and opportunities across the agency’s research and regulatory programs. These challenges and opportunities will include those posed or provided by new scientific knowledge and techniques, new and persistent environmental problems, changes in human activities and interactions, changes in public expectations, new risk-assessment and risk-management paradigms, new models for decision making, and new agency mission requirements. Special consideration will be given to potentially increasing emphasis on trans-disciplinary approaches, systems-based problem solving, scientific and technological innovation, and greater involvement of communities and other stakeholders. The committee will identify and assess transitional options to strengthen the agency’s capability to pursue the scientific information and tools that will be needed to meet these challenges and opportunities.
In performing its task, the committee may consider topics such as the following:
• Key factors expected to stimulate major changes in the biophysical and societal environments, research, risk assessment, risk management, and regulatory decision-making.
• Computational, analytic, and anticipatory strategies for strengthening the agency’s capabilities to obtain and interpret scientific information to address such changes.
• New methods and bioinformatics tools to support private-sector efforts to create new chemicals and engineering approaches to developing materials,
products, and services that are sustainable and safer for public health and the environment.
• Organizational collaborations, within EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) and among EPA offices, other agencies, and other domestic and foreign institutions that could facilitate EPA’s ability to anticipate, identify, and respond to new environmental challenges.
• New informatics approaches to collecting, storing, and sharing data; new techniques of measurement, computation, modeling, monitoring, and analysis; and new methods of synthesizing and integrating information across disciplines.
• New methods to measure the costs and benefits of environmental regulation and to anticipate future risk, the perception of that risk (especially before it is well understood), and the response to that risk.
• Improvements to, or further development of, decision-support tools to assist in evaluation of regulatory alternatives, taking into account relevant regulatory decision-making goals and relevant physical, chemical, biological, engineering, and social sciences.
• Approaches to more effectively deal with the inherent tensions among research, risk assessment, and regulatory timeframes.
• Scientific tools and analytic frameworks, including systems-based, trans-disciplinary, and community-based approaches, to address future regulatory challenges, including examples of potential applications of these tools.
• EPA’s scientific capabilities (from both a financial and human resource perspective) to successfully deal with the future.
• Other sources of scientific information external to the agency.