ceding sections of this chapter will require EPA to have state-of-the-art IT and informatics resources that can be used to manage, analyze, and model diverse datasets obtained from the vast array of technologies.
Computer Science, Informatics, and Information Technology
The future needs for IT and informatics in support of science in EPA are subject to two principal influences: the future directions of EPA’s mission and the underlying science in future directions taken by the IT industry. Science in EPA will increasingly depend on its capability in IT and informatics. IT is concerned with the acquisition, processing, storage, and dissemination of information with a combination of computing and telecommunication (Longley and Shain 1985). The term informatics, as used here, refers to the application of IT in the generation, repository, retrieval, processing, integration, analysis, and interpretation of data obtained in different media and across geographic and disciplinary boundaries that are related to the environment and ecosystem, community and human activities, and human health (see He 2003). Informatics is also concerned with the computational, cognitive, and social aspects of IT. One way in which IT can be used for data acquisition is through public engagement. Taking advantage of expertise outside of EPA (from academia, industry, and other agencies) and considering the general public as a source of new information is a way in which knowledge and resources can be combined in a cost-effective manner. Examples include taking advantage of social media and crowdsourcing. Appendix D provides additional background information on various important and rapidly changing tools and technologies in the field of information technology and informatics.
Example of Using Emerging Science to Address Regulatory Issues and Support Decision-Making: Social Media
EPA does substantial outreach to the public and to other agencies and research communities via such media as blogs and wikis. It also supports mobile, desktop, and laptop collaboration and it clearly sees the role of social media for these outward-facing purposes. The general IT activities are the responsibility of several entities in the Office of Environmental Information and elsewhere in the agency, such as the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (EPA 2012c) and the Office of Water (EPA 2012d). Social media also have a role to play in crowdsourcing and citizen science, as will be discussed in the following section. Another important topic in the near future will be the use of social media for scientific collaboration. The emergence of secure enterprise social networks provides a host of opportunities for greatly enhanced internal and external collaboration, particularly as tighter budgetary circumstances force the dissolution of some departmental and interagency boundaries.