• Strike a balance between inhouse and extramural research investment. The latter can often bring new ideas and methods to the agency, stimulate a flow of new people into it, and support the continued health of environmental research in the nation.
In the present climate of tight federal budgets, EPA faces the challenge of how to set priorities and achieve as many of these research objectives as it can within a limited budget that, in some cases, is shrinking in real terms.
The committee has examined the agency’s capacity to obtain and apply the best new scientific and technologic tools to meet current and future challenges. For 4 decades, 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 multidisciplinary 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.
Thus, the foundation of EPA science is strong. However, the agency needs to successfully address numerous present and future challenges if it is to maintain science leadership and meet its expanding mandates. There is a pressing need to groom tomorrow’s leaders and prepare for the retirement of large numbers of senior scientists (some of whom have been with the agency since it was created in 1970). As this report has underscored, there is an increased recognition of the need for cross-disciplinary training and the expansion of the science base to strengthen capacity in social and information sciences. In addition, EPA will continue to need leadership in the traditional core subjects, including, but not limited to, statistics, chemistry, economics, environmental engineering, ecology, toxicology, epidemiology, exposure science, and risk assessment. EPA’s future success will depend on its capacity to address long-standing environmental problems, to recognize and respond to emerging challenges, to develop solutions, and to meet the scientific needs of policy-makers.
Figure 6-1 presents the committee’s approach for addressing science for EPA’s future. The following sections elaborate on the issues described above and bring together the principal findings and recommendations detailed throughout the report. In assessing the scientific opportunities and needs that the agency faces, the committee did not consider it appropriate to prioritize where EPA should invest its limited resources. Such an exercise will require detailed internal EPA deliberations and administrative guidance. Instead, the committee has focused on the statement of task, which asked for an assessment of EPA’s capabilities to develop, obtain, and use new science and technologic information to meet persistent, emerging, and future challenges.
Most of the committee’s recommendations, which are discussed in Chapters 4 and 5 and summarized in the sections below, are broad and are intended to help EPA enhance its ability to address environmental problems and their solu-