In 1994, an EPA report, Research, Development, and Technical Services at EPA: A New Beginning (referred to hereafter as A New Beginning), launched major changes in ORD's program. The implementation of these changes is ongoing, and a new document, the draft Strategic Plan for the Office of Research and Development (EPA, 1995), provides specifics of the mission and goals of the "new" ORD. (ORD's history, the history of external criticism of EPA's research program, and the recent changes are more fully described in a recent NRC review of ORD [NRC, 1995a]).
As one input to the reorganization process, EPA's Assistant Administrator for Research and Development, Dr. Robert Huggett, requested that the National Research Council examine the proposed changes in ORD and offer advice in two separate but related areas: research management and research content. Accordingly, the NRC established two expert committees with a small overlap in membership to ensure coordination.
The first committee, launched in late 1994, is assessing EPA's research and development structure, peer review procedures, laboratory site review procedures, and career development and performance evaluation for research staff. It issued an interim report in 1995 (NRC, 1995a) that was supportive of the changes proposed in A New Beginning (EPA, 1994) and it is scheduled to complete its more comprehensive review by the spring of 1997.
This committee, established in December 1995, has been asked to think creatively about ORD's research areas themselves, identifying high-priority topics that will help solve some of the nation's most pressing current and future environmental problems. Experience suggests that pursuit of these research areas may spark entirely new approaches to environmental regulation and management, although many may require relatively long time frames to yield results.
In light of a rapidly changing budgetary and programmatic climate, ORD requested quick feedback on its recently released draft Strategic Plan (EPA, 1995) in the form of this interim report. Because this committee has met only once, and has examined a limited amount of information, the findings described here are necessarily preliminary, based in large part on the expertise and extensive experience of committee members.
The final report of this study, to be issued in the spring of 1997, will explore several broad and difficult questions. What are the most critical environmental