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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment APPENDIX C PROPOSAL OF THE COMMITTEE FOR THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT This appendix contains the proposal of the Committee for the National Institute for the Environment (CNIE) in the form in which it was reviewed by our committee at its last full meeting, on January 4, 1993. The CNIE proposal has evolved since that time, and the reader should refer to the latest draft of the proposal. A final report is expected to be released soon.
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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment The National Institutes for the Environment December 7, 1992 Mission To improve the scientific basis for making decisions on environmental issues. Goals Increase scientific understanding of environmental issues by supporting credible, problem-focused interdisciplinary research. Enhance decision making by comprehensive assessment of current environmental knowledge. Enlarge access to environmental information, and better communicate scientific and technological results. Strengthen capacity to address environmental issues by sponsoring higher education and training in the environmental sciences. Guiding Principles Science and information mission only; no regulatory or resource management role. Commitment to problem-focused, interdisciplinary research to address strategic issues concerning environmental resources, systems, and sustainability. Research to complement programs of existing federal agencies. Extramural and competitive funding of peer-reviewed grants and contracts. Representation of governmental, academic, business, and other non-governmental sectors in determining needs, and cooperation among these sectors in research, education and training. Cooperation with international research and training agencies and organizations to assist in taking a comprehensive approach to cross-national and global environmental issues.
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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment • December 7, 1992 • The Research Function of the NIE The NIE will be a science funding agency that competitively awards research grants and contracts on key cross-cutting environmental issues of national and global importance. Each research program will consider the human, biotic and physical dimensions of a given issue. A possible organization of NIE research, and sample programs, might be: Inventories, monitoring, and characterization: Environmental Resources Possible programs: ''What do we have?" • Inventory biological diversity and cultural knowledge of biological diversity. • Monitor and forecast long-term changes in ecosystems. • Search for useful plant, animal and microbial products. • Identify cultural uses of animal and plant resources. • Describe the ways in which different human cultures interact with their environments. • Develop tools for environmental assessment and accounting. Mechanisms, processes, and effects: Environmental Systems Possible programs: "How does it work?" • Measure and evaluate the impact of climate change on natural ecosystems and on agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. • Determine the ecological and economic impacts of the loss of biological diversity. • Measure the effects of stratospheric ozone depletion on terrestrial and marine food chains. • Analyze the impact of government regulations on the condition of the environment and of the economy. • Analyze the ecological and social and economic impacts of using non-fossil fuels. Strategies, technologies, and solutions: Environmental Sustainability Possible programs: "How do we keep it?" • Evaluate strategies for sustainable use of renewable and nonrenewable resources. • Develop improved methods and technologies for environmental conservation, restoration and remediation. • Develop new solvents and chemical manufacturing processes that are environmentally neutral. • Evaluate ways to assess environmental risks and analyze costs and benefits of environmental actions. • Evaluate options for encouraging development and use of technologies that minimize environmental damage. • Consider options for sustainable development under different population projections and technological levels.
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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment exsumm6 Draft 12/16/92 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES FOR THE ENVIRONMENT A PROPOSAL MISSION AND GOALS The environment will be a dominant geopolitical, economic, and social factor of the coming century. To meet far-reaching environmental challenges, the United States needs a federal science agency, the National Institutes for the Environment (NIE), focused exclusively on environmental research, assessment, information management, and higher education and training. The NIE is needed because existing agencies and organizations are not meeting critical environmental needs. The NIE would complement and strengthen these existing efforts. The mission of this new agency would be to improve the scientific basis for making decisions on environmental issues. To fulfill this mission, the agency would have the following goals: Research: Increase scientific understanding of environmental issues by supporting credible, problem-focused interdisciplinary research. Assessment: Enhance decision making by comprehensive assessment of current environmental knowledge. Information: Enlarge access to environmental information. and better communicate scientific and technological results. Education and training: Strengthen capacity to address environmental challenges by sponsoring higher education and training in the environmental sciences. The NIE would be an inclusive agency with unique features. Major stakeholder groups would have a formal role in setting NIE research priorities and would benefit from its commitment to dispassionate research, analysis, and training. These groups include business and industry, environmental groups, academia, state and local research agencies. federal management and regulatory agencies, and other producers and users of environmental information. The NIE would not be a regulatory or resource management agency. However, NIE-supported scientific research would help these agencies make sound environmental decisions.
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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment Research The hallmark of NIE research would be a problem-focused, interdisciplinary approach that draws on the insights of scientists from all relevant research fields and sectors of society. NIE's special niche would be research that looks ahead to broad environmental challenges that are likely to have major national and international impacts. A current example might include the effects of ozone loss (resulting in increased UV-B radiation) on the marine and terrestrial food chains, and consequently on the people who depend upon them. A coherent NIE program in this area would include input from biological, physical, and social scientists from academia, government and industry. They would identify the issues, do required research, and provide alternative solutions. The results of this research could help decision makers make plans to develop UV-B resistant crops, or to further speed the phaseout of the chemicals that are largely responsible for ozone depletion. NIE-funded research would be organized under three broad categories: environmental resources; environmental systems; environmental sustainability. These three components organize the research into three logical ordered steps of understanding. The first component focuses on the question of "What do we have?" that can be addressed by inventories, monitoring studies, and descriptive characterizations. The second component focuses on the question of "How does it work?" and is concerned with mechanisms, processes, and effects. The third component addresses the question ''How do we keep it?" and focuses on strategies, technologies, and solutions to environmental problems, and builds on the knowledge gained from the first two components. This organization of research also provides the flexibility needed to modify the research focus as problems and priorities change. Environmental decision making is required in many areas where scientific knowledge is limited. Hundreds of distinguished specialists from all parts of the scientific community have identified dozens of broad environmental challenges that could have profound impacts on society, and which deserve far more attention than they are now getting. The following examples illustrate important research areas where more information would be helpful to decision-makers. Environmental Resources: "What do we have?" Inventory biological diversity and cultural knowledge of biological diversity. Monitor and forecast long-term changes in ecosystems. Search for useful plant, animal, and microbial products. Identify cultural uses of animal and plant resources.
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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment Describe the ways in which different human cultures interact with their environments. Develop tools for environmental assessment and accounting. Environmental Systems: "How does it work?" Measure and evaluate the impact of climate change on natural systems and on agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. Determine the ecological and economic impacts of the loss of biological diversity. Measure the effects of stratospheric ozone depletion on terrestrial and marine food chains. Analyze the impact of government regulations on the condition of the environment and of the economy. Analyze the ecological, social, and economic impacts of using non-fossil fuels. Environmental Sustainability: "How do we keep it?" Evaluate strategies for sustainable use of renewable and nonrenewable resources. Develop improved methods and technologies for environmental conservation, restoration. and remediation. Develop new solvents and chemical manufacturing processes that are environmentally neutral. Evaluate ways to assess environmental risks and analyze costs and benefits of environmental actions. Explore options for encouraging development and use of technologies that minimize environmental damage. Consider options for sustainable development under different population projections and technological levels. NIE will set research priorities in response to the needs of various sectors: academia, business, government, and nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) will play a role. This will ensure that NIE research complements ongoing activities and addresses issues of high
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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment priority that are not covered elsewhere. It also ensures stakeholding in the questions that are addressed. Research awards will be made through a variety of mechanisms, including investigator-initiated grants, multidisciplinary task forces, contracts with business and nonprofit groups. All awards should be peer-reviewed, and both grants and contracts should be competitively awarded. The NIE would not duplicate existing agency prerogatives with large, in-house, research laboratories. Assessment and Evaluation Assessments link findings of scientists to needs of decision makers and the public. The NIE Office of Assessment and Evaluation is essential to provide ongoing assessments of environmental knowledge on particular issues. Unlike the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which usually do one-time reports on various issues, often authorized by Congress, the NIE assessment office will conduct ongoing assessments. This will provide periodic feedback on progress on key environmental issues, and on the contribution of NIE research towards fulfilling its mission of "improving the scientific basis for making decisions on environmental issues." NIE will conduct assessments to provide timely, unbiased, and useable information about what is known, its potential significance, and its limitations. The assessment function of the NIE has several objectives. One goal is to ensure that decision makers have access to alternative interpretations of the implications of results from environmental research. A major effort will be made to ensure that results are communicated in "user-friendly" formats to interested parties in the public and government sectors. Another goal would be to evaluate the degree to which NIE research programs are providing the scientific basis for sound policy. As a third goal, assessments will also provide a forward-looking early warning system for emerging problems. Assessments would be useful in identifying important gaps in ongoing research and suggesting priority areas for future funding. Access to Information Monitoring, understanding, predicting, and managing the environment is an information-intensive enterprise. A new kind of environmental data and information system (here called the National Library for the Environment (NLE)) will provide ready access to the entire spectrum of public environmental data and information. The NLE will conduct research to develop new ways of managing, abstracting, and disseminating the ever-increasing wealth of data and reports. The NLE will also cooperate with other groups concerned with environmental information systems and with evaluating the quality of environmental data in databases.
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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment The NIE system would be comprehensive, linking data, interpretations, and publications; it would also be interdisciplinary and geographically broad, linking disciplines across environmental specialties and institutions across the United States and world. The NLE is envisioned as a sophisticated electronic information retrieval system. It would have virtually no role as a physical repository of information on paper and plastic. Anyone needing the NLE services would have electronic access. A survey of 40 industrial trade associations recently showed that an accessible and credible source of environmental information, such as the NLE, is needed. Education and Training: Preparing the Next Generation NIE will help ensure that the next generation of scientists and professionals are prepared for environmental challenges of the future, and that an environmentally literate public and informed media can better evaluate all sides of inherently complex environmental issues. The NIE would support efforts to improve the general environmental awareness of college students, as well as to train future professionals to work in the environmental sciences in an interdisciplinary framework. Most NIE support for higher education will come through research grants and contracts to colleges and universities. Such support will include research grants that fund graduate and postdoctoral students and provide the incentive for academic institutions to hire faculty who teach courses in environmental subjects. Because a large number of environmental education efforts are being directed at K-12, the NIE would focus its initial efforts at the college and graduate level. Direct support of students and development of student curricula are critical. Successful examples of such programs include the graduate training and facilities grants from the National Institutes of Health, and the undergraduate instructional grants from NSF. The NIE would support development of environmental courses and programs that are problem-focused and interdisciplinary, encompassing the natural, social, and engineering sciences and humanities relevant to environmental challenges. WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM THE NIE? Everyone would benefit from environmental decisions based on sound science: The public would benefit. For example. NIE will save the public money because research should lead to more effective and less expensive ways of handling environmental problems. The nation spends $130 billion (about 2% of the GNP) annually on pollution prevention and mitigation. Appropriate research should help bring these costs down. Business and industry would benefit greatly from a more stable regulatory environment. As scientific uncertainties about environmental effects are reduced, both industry and the regulatory agencies are more likely to agree on what constitutes acceptable
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Research to Protect, Restore, and Manage the Environment regulation. Time-consuming, wasteful litigation should vastly decrease. In addition, business and industry would have a major role in determining NIE research priorities, which could include collaborative efforts to stimulate pre-commercial research on environmental technologies. Federal agencies with mandates in environmental regulation and management would gain from credible research relevant to environmental policy, and from a supportive environmentally literate citizenry. An increased supply of appropriately trained professionals should enhance the agencies' ability to carry out their environmental missions. Colleges and universities would benefit from research and training grants and funds for novel educational initiatives in the environmental sciences. Students are clamoring for these courses, and the NIE research grants would provide colleges and universities greater opportunities to hire environmental scientists. Environmental groups would benefit in many ways. They would be eligible to apply for contracts and grants for environmental research. If environmental policies are based on sound science, they may have less need to bring lawsuits. They will also have a role in setting NIE priorities. And a more informed citizenry should enhance their ability to achieve their environmental goals. Museums, zoos and other educational institutions would benefit from grants to support research and educational initiatives. State and local environmental agencies would benefit from cooperative support of research and educational programs, a more informed citizenry, and better science on which to base their decisions on environmental issues. International agencies would benefit because the NIE would cooperate with them in pursuing research on key global environmental issues and in sharing research results. CONCLUSIONS AND SUMMARY The NIE would be the only federal agency dedicated to environmental science, assessment, information, and training. The NIE emphasis would be on peer-reviewed interdisciplinary and disciplinary problem-oriented research that will help us understand and cope with environmental change. Regional, national, and global environmental challenges seriously threaten our health, national security, and economic future. The NIE will help discover how environmental systems work, how human activities and institutions lead to environmental change, what the best means are of conserving and repairing environmental systems that threaten our interests, and how our society can ensure the most economically, socially, and technically feasible adjustments to future environmental change.
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