Steering Committee. This committee would consist of program managers from the agencies represented on the coordination council and other agencies with related interests. For example, a relevant theme in the earth science/public health arena might focus on trichloroethylene (TCE) contamination of groundwater. RFPs in this area might solicit research designed to (1) evaluate the health effects of TCE on human health; (2) determine human exposure levels based on bioavailable TCE in groundwater at specific sites and consumption of water; and (3) technology to remove TCE from groundwater. Clearly, in this example, program managers from EPA, NIEHS, NIH, NSF, and USGS should be involved. This steering committee would approve specific research themes (not projects) and would also develop specific RFPs. Individual program managers from different agencies would need to interact to approve the funding of multiple projects that together make up a specific research center (which might be located at one institution or distributed among several). In addition, the success of a particular research center would require evaluation by a multiagency group of managers.
Biennial Collaborative Research Conference. An earth science and public health collaborative research conference should be held every two years, attended by the coordination council, steering committee, and representatives of the research themes. The purpose of this meeting would be to evaluate the success of collaborations over the previous two years and also to propose high-priority research collaborations that would be the basis for RFPs for the next four years.
With the understanding that a certain level of commitment is required before a research collaboration can be considered a true collaborative activity, the committee has arbitrarily established a 20% contribution as a minimum (e.g., we do not consider a 95:5 funding split as constituting a real collaboration). A funding system is envisioned wherein more than one agency provides support for multiple individual research projects, with RFPs/solicitations and award reporting coordinated by the steering committee but administered according to each individual agency’s rules.