Scientific knowledge and technical information are essential for determining which environmental problems pose important risks to human health, ecosystems, the quality of life, and the economy. We need scientific information to avoid wastefully targeting inconsequential problems while ignoring greater risks. We need such information to reduce uncertainties in environmental decision-making and to help develop cost-effective strategies to reduce risks. We need science to help identify emerging and future environmental problems and to prepare for the inevitable surprises.
This report is the fourth and final one in a series prepared by two companion expert committees convened by the National Research Council (NRC) in response to a request from Congress and to subsequent, related requests from EPA for an independent assessment of the overall structure and management of the agency's research program, as well as for an evaluation of scientific peer-review procedures used by EPA. To carry out the study, the NRC appointed the Committee on Research and Peer Review in EPA, which prepared an interim report addressing the initial request from Congress, and this, the final report in the study. Also as part of the study, the NRC appointed the Committee on Research Opportunities and Priorities for EPA, which prepared an interim report and the 1997 report Building a Foundation for Sound Environmental Decisions. This final report expands on issues discussed in the previous reports and addresses related questions.
The members of both committees are experts from the academic community and other organizations chosen by the NRC for their expertise in relevant scientific and technical disciplines. Special emphasis was placed on selecting committee members with research management experience and knowledge of the research and other scientific activities of EPA and other agencies. The chairman and two other members of the Committee on Research Opportunities and Priorities for EPA were also members of the Committee on Research and Peer Review in EPA.
In developing this report, the Committee on Research and Peer Review in EPA drew on the expertise and experience of its members and considered more than 300 relevant documents obtained from EPA and other sources. The committee consulted with more than 200 scientists, engineers, managers, and other persons within and outside EPA to obtain relevant information and insights on research-program struc-