attention to new analytic and statistical methods, the building blocks of informatics and backbones of data-mining; to address emerging modeling issues; and to bridge methodologic gaps.
Many of the issues being addressed by EPA are in the context of environmental factors whose effects are best characterized in terms of changing exposures, accumulating amounts of materials, and changing health and environmental conditions. Given the high levels of spatial and temporal variability of those factors, it is often critical to have and maintain long-term records of multiple parameters. Making data and samples accessible to future researchers is central to ensuring that the understanding of environmental phenomena continues to grow and evolve with the science. It is also important to develop sample archives where materials are appropriately stored and to have good metadata for analysis or reanalysis at a later date.
Long-term monitoring is essential for tracking changes in ecosystems and populations to identify, at the earliest stage, emerging changes and challenges. Without long-term data, it is difficult to know whether current variations fall within the normal range of variation or are truly unprecedented. It is also essential for knowing whether EPA’s management interventions are having their intended effect. Monitoring is a fundamental component of hypothesis-testing. All management interventions are based on explicit or implicit hypotheses that justify them and explain why they should yield the desired results. A hypothesis may focus on physical and biologic processes or on expected human behavioral responses. If it is made explicit and monitoring is designed specifically to test it, both the value of the monitoring and the details of its design will be clarified, and the importance of the monitoring will be evident.
Finding: It is difficult to understand the overall state of the environment unless one knows what it has been in the past, and how it is changing over time. Typically this can only be achieved by examining high-quality time series of key indicators of environmental quality and performance. Currently at EPA, there are few long-term monitoring programs, let alone programs that are systematic and rigorous.
Recommendation 5: The committee recommends that EPA invest substantial effort to generate broader, deeper, and sustained support for long-term monitoring of key indicators of environmental quality and performance.
To understand future environmental health problems and provide solutions, EPA will depend on innovations across different media (air, land, and water). EPA has an important role in addressing capacity and opportunities for innovation by providing information, technical assistance, platforms for information exchange, demonstration activities, and economic incentives and disin-