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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 1993. Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2216.
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INTRODUCTION

ORIGIN, SCOPE, AND ORGANIZATION OF THE REPORT

The Committee on Environmental Research was formed in response to Congressional resolutions calling on the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences to examine the performance and organization of federal environmental research. The resolutions were prompted by the work of the independent group organized as the Committee for the National Institute (originally Institutes) for the Environment. Before the study began, the National Research Council and the sponsors arranged to broaden the charge so that the committee would consider appropriate ways to organize environmental research that would include consideration of the National Institute for the Environment, but not be limited to that option.

The charge to our committee follows the legislative resolution that led to our creation:

The study committee will review existing federal programs for the support of environmental research and training, and examine ways to improve these programs, including proposals to establish a National Institutes for the Environment. It may, if appropriate, recommend actions by the federal government that would improve the science base in environmental protection and resource management.

In carrying out this charge, the study Committee will:

  1. assess the status of environmental research in the U.S., including current research and training activities, needs, funding and trends;

  2. examine ways to improve, if needed, federal intramural programs and extramural funding for environmental research and

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 1993. Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2216.
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training, including proposals to establish a National Institutes for the Environment (NIE);

  1. address the development and funding of institutional mechanisms to support the full range of research, training and education needed to increase the science base in the environmental regulatory process; and

  2. examine how the results of environmental research are used to inform environmental policy decisions made by EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and other federal agencies with missions that affect environmental quality and natural resources.

    If, in the course of the study, other critical issues arise the committee will consider them in an appropriate manner.

In this report, Chapter 2 provides a perspective on environmental problems in the nation and world. Chapter 3 assesses the strengths and weaknesses of current environmental research programs. Chapter 4 describes the desirable characteristics of an environmental research program that would lead to effective organization of research, training, and education. Chapters 3 and 4 contain commentary on issues mentioned in the charge, such as the balance of intramural and extramural funding of environmental research and the means for using the scientific findings of environmental research to inform environmental policy decisions. Chapter 5 uses the needs identified in Chapter 3 and the desirable characteristics described in Chapter 4 to construct a series of recommendations for changing the culture for the performance of environmental research and for organizing it within the federal government.

Appendixes contain essential information that guided the deliberations of the committee. Appendix A describes current environmental research programs in the federal agencies and provides data on trends in financial support of the research. Appendix B deals with biodiversity and its loss and expands on a briefer discussion in Chapter 2. Appendix C reproduces the proposal by the Committee for the National Institute for the Environment.

OTHER REPORTS

Concern for the environment and for environmental research has been reflected in several nearly coincident studies of different aspects of the field. A 1992 report of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Federal Funding for Environmental R&D (Gramp et al. 1992), analyzes the

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 1993. Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2216.
×

federal budget for environmental research support by categories and by agency. It also describes and discusses each agency's programs. The report gives an excellent view of what the federal government is doing in environmental research, and we have relied on it for our own examination of federal programs and for financial information concerning the federal environmental programs described in Appendix A.

NATIONAL COMMISSION ON THE ENVIRONMENT: CHOOSING A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

This report (Train, 1992) deals primarily with larger issues of environmental policy, prevention of pollution, and sustainable economic development and to only a small extent with organizing the federal government for environmental research. Many far-reaching recommendations focus on tax incentives and disincentives to reduce pollution, on management of subsidies to reduce water consumption, and on equity-citizen issues.

Regarding government organization that bears on environmental research, the commission proposes:

  • That Congress enact legislation providing for a National Environmental Strategy.

  • That a Department of the Environment be established and that it formulate and oversee the National Environmental Strategy. This recommendation goes beyond elevation of EPA to departmental status. The proposed department would include offices devoted to the environmental problems of agriculture, transportation, energy, and other major sectors. The department would take responsibility for expansion of environmental research and for improvements in monitoring. Research would be protected from regulatory functions in the department.

  • That the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) be strengthened and play a major role in formulating the national strategy. It should set 5- and 10-year environmental-quality goals.

  • That the department include a Center of Environmental Statistics.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 1993. Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2216.
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CARNEGIE COMMISSION ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND GOVERNMENT: ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT: STRENGTHENING THE FEDERAL INFRASTRUCTURE

This report seeks to strengthen environmental research by building on and coordinating existing organizational structure. Major recommendations include (Carnegie, 1992a):

  • That the Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ), working with the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), have the primary role in coordination of environmental research.

  • That an Institute of Environmental Assessment, reporting to CEQ, be established to assess natural-science data and evaluate them in the context of economic, social, and political considerations to aid in developing environmental and risk-related policies.

  • That a long-term program of environmental monitoring be undertaken with an eye to bringing all federal monitoring R&D efforts into a common policy framework.

  • That EPA have a major research role and that its laboratory system be consolidated into a smaller number of laboratories. EPA should establish six environmental research institutes associated with academic institutions with research support (each with a $10-15 million annual research budget) greater than that provided for current EPA environmental research centers.

  • That the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration be joined to form a U.S. Environmental Monitoring Agency.

  • That a National Center for Environmental Information be established.

  • That an interagency Environmental Technologies Program be initiated.

  • That mission agencies and the national laboratories be expanded and their research coordinated.

  • That international cooperation and ties between federal agencies and nongovernment organizations be strengthened.

  • That the environmental intellectual base be strengthened by substantial expansion of National Science Foundation programs in policy and in both interdisciplinary and disciplinary research.

  • That education in all relevant fields be improved.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 1993. Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2216.
×

COMMITTEE FOR THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

Part of the charge to our committee was to consider the establishment of a National Institute for the Environment as a means to improve environmental research. We present the proposal from the Committee for the National Institute for the Environment (CNIE) in the detail with which it was made available to this National Research Council committee at our last meeting in January 1993. The CNIE proposal continues to evolve, and its latest form should be consulted. We have included the CNIE proposal among the frameworks we have considered for the organization of environmental research in Chapter 5, as called for in our charge.

At the end of Chapter 5, we compare the recommendations of our report with those of the above reports and comment also on the pending legislation to elevate the EPA to cabinet status.

RECENT NATIONAL EVENTS

As this committee concluded its work, a new federal administration was actively proposing and implementing far-reaching changes in the organization of environmental research and policy. President Clinton moved almost immediately after he took office to abolish the CEQ and to establish in its place the White House Office of Environmental Policy to integrate environmental considerations into all aspects of decision-making by the Administration. Bills to elevate the EPA to cabinet level were introduced into the House of Representatives and Senate, and they moved ahead rapidly into the legislative process. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt has taken steps to reorganize environmental research, including creation of a National Biological Survey, in his department; another committee of the Research Council has been formed to advise the Department of the Interior in this regard. As these developments proceed in the months ahead, we hope that our report will inform decisions and illuminate implementation of actions already taken.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 1993. Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2216.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 1993. Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2216.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 1993. Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2216.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 1993. Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2216.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 1993. Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2216.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 1993. Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2216.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Research Council. 1993. Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2216.
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This book assesses the strengths and weaknesses of current environmental research programs, describes the desirable characteristics of an effective program, and recommends cultural and organizational changes to improve the performance of environmental research. Research areas in need of greater emphasis are identified, and overall directions for environmental research are recommended. The book also comments on the proposal to establish a National Institute for the Environment and on the elevation of the Environmental Protection Agency to cabinet status.

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