ORD scientists, although it supports several small but important programs in the regions…. Program and regional offices manage their scientific workforces relatively independently, with some organizations providing stronger support than others.” Given the need for integrated, transdisciplinary, and solutions-oriented research to solve 21st century environmental problems, the existing structure focused on ORD as the “science center” that establishes the scientific agenda of EPA will not be sufficient; ORD only makes up a portion of EPA’s scientific efforts, and more than three-fourths of EPA’s scientific staff work outside ORD (EPA SAB 2012b). When science integration or collaboration occurs, it involves largely short-term needs and problems. Although ORD has surveyed regional and program offices for science and data needs and it will be necessary to continue to conduct regular and systematic assessments of regional and program offices to inform its planning, the focus on ORD planning alone will not be adequate to address science needs for 21st century challenges. As noted above, the development of strategic, coordinated multiyear agency-wide science integration plans, overseen by enhanced science leadership empowered by the administrator, are critical for the agency to coordinate and deliver science in and outside of the agency more effectively in the future. Such integrated plans would also assist the agency in determining where resources outside the agency may be used.
Science flourishes where scientists flourish, and scientists flourish where they have opportunities to work on interesting, challenging problems, interact synergistically with colleagues, have an impact, and earn recognition for their work. In seeking to strengthen its science capacity, EPA needs to attend to the structure of its research operations; to attract, retain, and develop scientific talent within the agency; to contribute to environmental-education efforts to build the talent pool for the future; to support science outside the agency; and to ensure that science is conducted with the utmost integrity. Those points are addressed below.
Enhancing Expertise in the US Environmental Protection Agency
As discussed in Chapters 2 and 3, EPA will need to continue to be prepared to address a wide array of environmental and health challenges and their complex interactions. In some cases, the agency will need to advance scientific understanding through inhouse research efforts; in others, it will need to assimilate and influence scientific efforts that are undertaken elsewhere. Strategic workforce planning when hiring new staff will help to ensure that EPA has expertise it needs in critical fields. Equally important, EPA should carefully attend to the challenge of continuing science education to ensure that scientists are productive throughout their careers even as the pace of change in scientific tools, techniques, and challenges increases.