Annual funding for extramural, investigator-initiated, peer-reviewed,competitive research grants and centers is being increased from $21million to $100 million;
Peer-review practices are being strengthened and expanded; and
A national program of 300 graduate fellowships is being created.
In this interim report, the NRC's Committee on Research and Peer Review in EPA presents its initialobservations on the overall ORD program and the changes being made:
Strategic Planning—The lack of a clear, agreed-upon mission statement and coherent research-planningprocess has been one of the most frequently expressed concerns ofprevious independent groups evaluating EPA's research program. Thepresent committee strongly concurs in those concerns. Most sorelyneeded are a coherent scientific-strategy statement for EPA; a robustmission statement, vision statement, and strategic plan for ORD;and mission statements, vision statements, and strategic plans foreach new ORD national laboratory and center (consistent with theagency and ORD plans). The present committee believes that ORD'scurrent efforts to develop such statements and strategic plans areof crucial importance. The committee eagerly awaits them and willassess them in its final report.
The Role(s) of ORD—Historically, ORD has struggled to balance two primary roles: a researchrole involving fundamental and anticipatory research and a technical-assistancerole involving applied projects and directed support to EPA's regulatoryoffices. In the past, ORD has predominantly engaged in the supportactivities. But the fundamental and anticipatory research role isvery important. This longer-term research must enable EPA to anticipatefuture problems and to develop the knowledge base needed to movebeyond yesterday's approaches of controlling individual pollutantproblems into complex new concepts, such as sustainable developmentand industrial ecology. A sustained program of long-term, anticipatoryresearch can generally be expected to reduce the need for short-term,reactive projects. An effective research program directed towardover-the-horizon questions seeks to anticipate and address EPA'sfuture needs for scientific and technical information, thereby reducingfuture short-fused needs.
The committee endorses ORD's decision to increase its emphasis on long-term fundamental andanticipatory research, despite the resulting reduction in short-termregulatory assistance. At this early point in its study, the committeecannot offer judgment on the optimal proportions for ORD, but itdoes conclude that the past predominance of regulatory support activitiesmay have been excessive, and ORD's contemplated increase appearsto be a change in the right direction. However, as ORD moves to increaseits long-term research and its grants program, safeguards are neededto ensure that the important scientific needs of EPA's regulatory and