(4) The advisability of extending the Air Force Health Study, including the potential value and relevance of extending the study, the potential cost of extending the study, and the federal or nonfederal entity best suited to continue the study if extended.
(5) The advisability of making the laboratory specimens of the Air Force Health Study available for independent research, including the potential value and relevance of such research, and the potential cost of such research.
In response to a request by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies constituted the Committee on the Disposition of the Air Force Health Study to tackle these issues.
The committee conducted four meetings. During the first meeting, the committee received its charge from Dr. Mark Brown, the director of the Environmental Agents Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The committee was also briefed on the study design, protocol, and results of the AFHS by the study’s then principal investigator, Dr. Joel E. Michalek. The second and third meetings included workshop sessions with presentations from experts in the conduct of longitudinal epidemiologic studies and the management and dissemination of epidemiologic data and biospecimens. Representatives of veterans service organizations also presented information for the consideration of the committee. Appendix A lists the workshop speakers and presentation topics. The final meeting was a closed session where committee members concluded their deliberations and finalized their findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
In addition to the meetings and workshops, the committee engaged in an extensive effort to collect other information on topics relevant to its charge. As part of this effort, four members of the committee—Drs. Blazer, Hankinson, Kalman, and Richardson—conducted a site visit to the AFHS research facility at Brooks City-Base, San Antonio, Texas, on May 27, 2005. Accompanying them were IOM study staff and Mr. Victor Pontes, a consultant to the committee on issues related to SAS datasets.1 The intent of the visit was to evaluate the state of the documentation of the study’s data assets, examine how they were stored, and assess the ease of access to them. Working groups were established to focus on the electronically stored data and the specimens. Their findings are summarized in the committee’s interim letter report (IOM, 2005a).
The committee’s information gathering was greatly aided by AFHS staff members, who were helpful in answering the committee’s many questions. The committee thanks them for their cooperation.