Research Effort Program in that it provides the regions with near-term research support on high-priority, region-specific science needs and improves collaboration between regions and ORD laboratories and centers (EPA 2008). An example is EPA Region 8, where scientists used support from the Regional Methods Program to collaborate with EPA in developing a vitellogenin gene-induction method to produce a marker of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (Keteles 2011). The Regional Research Partnership Program provides short-term training opportunities (up to 6 months) for regional technical staff to work directly with ORD scientists in ORD laboratories and centers. Regional Science Topic Workshops are held on high-priority topics, including green chemistry, water reuse, and children’s environmental exposures. The workshops are intended to identify research needs, initiate research partnerships, and improve information-sharing and coordination of existing research efforts. Through the Regional Research Partnership Program, OSP provides travel and relocation expenses for 10 regional scientists a year to be detailed to specific ORD laboratories for 4 to 12 weeks to work on high-priority research projects in direct collaboration with ORD scientists. The committee concludes that the Regional Science Program could improve the effectiveness of its delivery of ORD and program-office research to regional programs through additional liaisons with specific responsibility in this regard.
ORD is beginning to use social networking and information technology tools, as noted in Chapters 3 and 4 and Appendix D, to promote the development of science communities that cross internal organizational boundaries and extend outside the agency. For example, EPA SAB (2012b) found various electronic sources that are considered useful by the program and regional offices, including the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Responses CLU-IN Web site (which provides a platform for training, seminars, and podcasts); a variety of forums sponsored by the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Responses that support the Superfund and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act programs; the Economics Forum, hosted by EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics (NCEE), to keep the agency and other interested parties informed about research; and the Environmental Science Connector, a Web-based tool designed for project management and information-sharing with EPA researchers and external collaborators. ORD is also experimenting with a Web-based collaborative platform called IdeaScale that allows its scientists and engineers to engage in an open, interactive conversation. Staff can share their ideas, then harness the input of their peers through online discussions and ranking tools to refine them. EPA is also developing IdeaScale sites for research programs, engaging both internal and external stakeholders to help in preparing new research frameworks. It is an interesting new approach, but there is little evidence that it has worked effectively to date, having had few users.
Despite the variety of efforts to support and coordinate science within the agency more effectively, the efforts focus on one-way interaction between ORD and program offices or regions and, as noted in several reviews, are not thoroughly coordinated. EPA SAB (2012b, p.7) noted, “ORD principally focuses on