started as small groups of citizens concerned about particular local issues working on a volunteer basis, and they have grown into nationwide organizations with hundreds of thousands of members and professional staffs. Hampshire Research Associates was founded by Warren Muir, formerly the Director of the Office of Toxic Substances in the Environmental Protection Agency, with a focus on the analysis of information systems and methods for assessing the risks posed by exposure to toxic chemicals.
After nearly a decade of operation, a related non-profit institute was created, with the focus of providing information directly to the public (including other NGOs), rather than via reports to the government. In the past decade, the non-profit institution has grown to eclipse the government consulting work, and the consulting firm now operates as a subsidiary of the NGO.
Another difference between HRI and other NGOs is the way we work. If many U.S. NGOs can be viewed as “warriors” defending the environment, HRI is instead an “armorer,” providing the public with the information and analytical tools they need to participate in public debate and decision-making concerning the environment.
As might be expected for an organization founded by a chemist, and which hired two toxicologists as its first staff, our focus is quite specific. We are concerned with the potential adverse effects of chemicals, whether via intentional use in commerce and industry or as by-products of modern industrial society.
Our main role has been to take data that are available to the public at least in a hypothetical sense, and to provide data formats, analyses, and tools that ensure that those data are really available to support public participation in environmental deliberations.
Two key issues have been the dissemination of data on the releases of industrial and commercial chemicals to the environment (PRTRs) and the development of user-friendly tools for risk assessment. In the latter area, we have long enjoyed the collaboration of Dr. Tarasova and the Mendeleev University.
While most of our work is no longer on behalf of government agencies, it has received substantial financial support from the government, in the form of grants and cooperative agreements. We have also had significant support from private foundations. Increasingly, our work has been supported by multilateral institutions, including UN agencies (UNEP, UNIDO, UNITAR), OECD, and the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC).
In the United States, there is a wealth of environmental data available to the public. The key problem that we have encountered is that government agencies vary widely in the extent to which they provide the data in a form that is usable to any but a small group of experts and the level of effort that they require a citizen to expend to get the data.