pipe” solutions, rather than proactive and oriented toward long-term goals that will help the agency to address and possibly prevent environmental problems in the future.
Today, despite its considerable successes, science at EPA is facing unprecedented challenges. An NRC report, Science and Decisions: Advancing Risk Assessment, identified new approaches to formulate environmental problems, assess risks, and evaluate decision options (NRC 2009), which would facilitate systems thinking and innovative problem-solving discussed in the current report. Another recent NRC report, Sustainability and the U.S. EPA, identified broader tools incorporating economics and social sciences for evaluating decision options and formulating research programs (NRC 2011). By acknowledging past achievements and current efforts but also recognizing the many challenges that EPA faces, the current report seeks to provide advice on the initiation of new directions and approaches for science at EPA to ensure that the agency continues to generate and make effective use of the world-class science and engineering that are needed to accomplish its mission. Specific challenges that EPA faces today and will likely face in the future and tools and technologies to address them are elaborated on in Chapters 2 and 3 of this report.
EPA asked NRC to assess independently the overall capabilities of the agency to develop, obtain, and use the best available scientific and technologic information and tools to meet persistent, emerging, and future mission challenges and opportunities. Those challenges and opportunities include new and persistent environmental problems, changes in human activities and interactions, changes in public expectations, new risk-assessment and risk-management paradigms, new models for decision-making, and new agency mission requirements. EPA asked that special consideration be given to a potentially increasing emphasis on transdisciplinary approaches, systems-based problem-solving, scientific and technologic innovation, and greater involvement of communities and stakeholders. NRC was also asked to identify and assess transitional options to strengthen the agency’s ability to pursue the aforementioned scientific information and tools. In response, it convened the Committee on Science for EPA’s Future, which prepared the present report. The committee’s full statement of task is provided in Appendix A, and biographic information on the committee is in Appendix B.
To accomplish its task, the committee held six meetings from June 2011 to April 2012. The first two meetings included public sessions during which the committee heard from several EPA staff and from a principal investigator at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. In writing its report, the committee gathered information through communication with EPA staff, from resources on EPA’s website, peer-reviewed scientific literature, and reviews and