and resourceful scientific leadership at various levels in the agency. This includes EPA using all of its authority effectively, including pursuing permanent Title 42 authority, to recruit, hire, and retain the high-level science and engineering leaders that it needs to maintain a strong inhouse research program (NRC 2010a). It will also mean maintaining a critical mass of world-class experts who have the ability to identify and access the necessary science inside or outside EPA and to work collaboratively with researchers in other agencies.

Finding: Expertise in traditional scientific disciplines—including but not limited to statistics, chemistry, economics, environmental engineering, ecology, toxicology, epidemiology, exposure science, and risk assessment—are essential for addressing the challenges of today and the future. The case of statistics is one example where the agency is facing significant retirements and needs to have, if anything, enhanced expertise.1 EPA is currently attuned to these needs, but staffing high-quality scientists in these areas of expertise who can embrace problems by drawing from information across disciplines will require continued attention if EPA is to maintain its leadership role in environmental science and technology.

Recommendation: EPA should continue to cultivate a scientific workforce across the agency (including ORD, program offices, and regions) that can take on transdisciplinary challenges.

The committee recognizes that EPA already provides many unique opportunities to engage in high quality, collaborative, and interdisciplinary research. However, EPA can continue to build its capacity by cultivating a scientific workforce across the agency (including ORD, program offices, and regions) that can take on transdisciplinary challenges. Some options that EPA might explore to fulfill the recommendation above include:

•   Build a stronger mentoring and leadership development program that supports young researchers and fosters the culture of systems-thinking research.

•   Recruit young scientists who have expertise and interest in scientific concepts and tools relevant to systems thinking.

•   Promote rotations through its laboratories and through the laboratories of other federal agencies and scientific organizations as valuable training experiences for new scientists in the areas of environmental health, science, and engineering.

image

1 ORD currently has 12 epidemiologists, 31 statisticians (mathematical or research), and 8 biologic and health statisticians (E. Struble, EPA, personal communication, July 13, 2012). These job titles typically require a certain amount of statistics course work and do not fully reflect statistical expertise across the entire agency. There are staff members with other job titles who also fulfill the data analysis role.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement