Agency (NRC 2000) agreed that a vigorous research program should be maintained in EPA, stating that

moving the research program out of the agency would most likely weaken, not strengthen, the scientific foundation of EPA’s decisions and actions ... An EPA devoid of a research program would not be likely to attract substantial scientific talent, and an EPA without scientific talent would be ineffective and potentially harmful to the nation (NRC 2000).


EPA’s current research program consists of “core” and “problem-driven” research. Those terms were coined by the National Research Council committee that wrote Building a Foundation for Sound Environmental Decisions, which recommended that EPA’s research program maintain a balance between problem-driven research, targeted at understanding and solving particular identified environmental problems and reducing the uncertainties associated with them, and core research, which aims to provide broader, more generic information to help improve understanding relevant to environmental problems for the present and the future. The report described problem-driven research as the kind of research and technical support activity that EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) has pursued most in the past—efforts that are driven largely by current or expected regulatory efforts of other EPA offices.

The 1997 Research Council report pointed out that the distinction at EPA between core and problem-driven research is not always clear-cut, and it is important to note that the terms are not the same as basic vs applied research, fundamental vs directed research, or short-term vs long-term research, which are typically used by other federal agencies and researchers.

Research in EPA is overseen by the Office of Research and Development (ORD), which is based at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. ORD’s mission is to conduct leading-edge research and to foster the sound use of science and technology to fulfill EPA’s mission to protect human health and safeguard the natural environment. That mission commits ORD to conduct its research in a way that will have a direct and meaningful influence on EPA’s decisions and programs (EPA 2001). The ORD Strategic Plan (EPA 2001) defines the goals and strategies for achieving its missionrelated activities.

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