Second, EPA can maintain its global position by staying at the leading edge of science (see the “Systems Thinking to Assess Implications of Decisions” box in Figure S-1). Staying at the leading edge will require consideration of existing and on-the-horizon challenges and efforts to predict, address, and prevent future challenges. The committee suggests the following overarching actions for addressing wicked problems:
• Anticipate. Be deliberate and systematic in anticipating scientific, technologic, and regulatory challenges.
• Innovate. Support innovation in scientific approaches to characterize and prevent problems and to support solutions through sustainable technologies and practices.
• Take the long view. Track progress in ecosystem protection and human health over the medium term and the long term and identify needs for course corrections.
• Be collaborative. Support interdisciplinary collaboration within and outside the agency, across the United States, and globally.
Third, maintaining leading-edge science requires the development and application of systems-level tools and expertise for the systematic analysis of the health, environmental, social, and economic implications of individual decisions (see the “Systems Tools and Skills” box in Figure S-1). Leading-edge science will produce large amounts of new information, and many multifactorial problems will require systems-thinking approaches. Over the years, EPA has become more accomplished in addressing cross-media problems and avoiding “solutions” that transfer a problem from one medium to another (for example, changing an air pollutant to a water or solid-waste pollutant). However, future problems will become more complex and will go beyond cross-media situations, such as global climate and land-use patterns. Many analytic systems tools can contribute to analyzing and evaluating complex scenarios, including life-cycle assessment; cumulative risk assessment; social, economic, behavioral, and decision sciences; and synthesis research. Regardless of the analytic systems tools used, it is important to characterize and integrate information on both human health and ecosystem effects.
Fourth, maintaining leading-edge science requires the development of tools and methods for synthesizing scientific information and characterizing uncertainties. It should also integrate methods for tracking and assessing the outcomes of actions (that is, for being accountable) into the decision process from the outset (see the “Synthesis and Evaluation” box in Figure S-1). Systems-level problems are rarely amenable to simple quantitative decision measures and may require multiple types of information and characterization of different types of uncertainty. Examples of approaches for synthesizing information to support holistic decisions include sustainability analysis, solutions-oriented approaches (such as health impact assessment, alternatives assessment,