tions from a systems perspective and through strengthened leadership, communication, internal expertise, and internal and external collaboration. The mechanism or mechanisms through which EPA chooses to address the recommendations will depend on its funding, its priorities, and what environmental science and engineering areas it wants to focus its efforts on in the future. EPA already addresses some aspects of the committee’s recommendations to some degree. It is the committee’s aim that this report will help the agency to choose where to enhance its ability to integrate its current science and to use new tools and technologies to address its mission challenges.

SYSTEMS THINKING

It is important for EPA to try to balance its capacity and resources to address complex environmental challenges, to address potential favorable and unfavorable health and environmental effects, and to apply emerging scientific information, tools, techniques, and technologies. Approaching problems from a systems perspective will allow EPA to meet those challenges and make the maximum continuing use of new scientific tools. The committee has suggested ways in which the agency can integrate systems-thinking techniques into a 21st century framework for science to inform decisions (see Figure 6-1). That framework will help EPA to stay at the leading edge of science by encouraging it to produce science that is anticipatory, innovative, long-term, and collaborative; to evaluate and apply emerging tools for data acquisition, modeling, and knowledge development; and to develop tools and methods for synthesizing science, characterizing uncertainties, and integrating, tracking, and assessing the outcomes of actions. If effectively implemented, the framework would help to break the silos of the agency and promote collaboration among different media, time scales, and disciplines. In supporting environmental science and engineering for the 21st century, there will need to be a move from using science to characterize risks, to applying science holistically to characterize both problems and solutions at the earliest possible time. ORD’s move toward embracing sus-tainability throughout its research program is a positive move in this direction.

Finding: Environmental problems are increasingly interconnected. EPA can no longer address just one environmental hazard at a time without considering how that problem interacts with, is influenced by, and influences other aspects of the environment.

Recommendation 1: The committee recommends that EPA substantially enhance the integration of systems thinking into its work and enhance its capacity to apply systems thinking to all aspects of how it approaches complex decisions.



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