scientific studies, for ensuring study quality, and for peer review. The need to describe methods clearly for selecting and weighing studies is evident given the criticisms of assessments prepared for EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). Over the last decade, several NRC committees that reviewed IRIS assessments noted a need to improve formal, evidence-based approaches to increase transparency and clarity in selecting datasets for analysis and a greater focus on uncertainty and variability. Those points were reiterated in the 2011 NRC report Review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Draft IRIS Assessment of Formaldehyde. EPA has announced that it is working to address the concerns raised in that report and is currently sponsoring, at the request of Congress, an NRC study to assess the scientific, technical, and process changes being implemented for IRIS.

Based on the four key areas identified above, the Committee on Science for EPA’s Future recommends that EPA strengthen its capability to pursue the scientific information and tools that will be needed to meet current and future challenges by

Substantially enhancing the responsibilities of a person in an agency-wide science leadership position to ensure that the highest-quality science is developed, evaluated, and applied systematically throughout the agency’s programs. The person in that position should have sufficient authority and staff resources to improve the integration and coordination of science across the agency. If this enhanced leadership position is to be successful, strengthened leadership is needed throughout the agency and the improved use of science at EPA will need to be carried out by staff at all levels.

Strengthening its scientific capacity. This can be accomplished by continuing to cultivate knowledge and expertise within the agency generally, by hiring more behavioral and decision scientists, and by drawing on scientific research and expertise from outside the agency.

Creating a process to set priorities for improving the quality of EPA’s scientific endeavors. The process should recognize the inevitably limited resources while clearly articulating the level of resources required for EPA to continue to ensure the future health and safety of humans and ecosystems.


For over 40 years, EPA has been a national and world leader in addressing the scientific and engineering challenges of protecting the environment and human health. The agency’s multi-disciplinary science workforce of 6,000 is bolstered by strong ties to academic research institutions and science advisers representing many sectors of the scientific community. A highly competitive fellowship program also provides a pipeline for future environmental science and engineering leaders and enables the agency to attract graduates who have state-of-the-art training.

The foundation of EPA science is strong, but the agency needs to continue to address numerous present and future challenges if it is to maintain its science

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