ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR IMPLEMENTING THE COMMITTEE'S RESEARCH STRATEGY
To reduce successfully the major uncertainties about health risks of exposure to particulate matter and other copollutants, EPA needs to ask the right research questions, have a clear strategy for planning and managing the research program, and apply resources appropriately matched to the questions being addressed. Earlier sections of this report have focused on the highest-priority research questions and the required resources and phasing of such research. This chapter discusses additional aspects of an appropriate management strategy to implement the committee's recommended research portfolio.
From the presentations provided to the committee in public sessions in January and February 1998, as well as from the knowledge and experience of its individual members (see Appendix A), the committee collectively has considerable awareness of federal and nonfederal particulate-matter-related research that has been conducted, research currently in progress, and planned research activities directed toward reducing uncertainties about the linkages between sources of particulate matter and health effects in people. Only 2 months into its 5-year NRC study at this stage, the committee has not yet had the opportunity to review all of EPA's current and planned research in detail, but it has gained sufficient insight to form the preliminary judgments described in Chapter 6, as well as additional conclusions about research-management aspects of the research effort on particulate matter being conducted
and planned by EPA, other agencies, and the nonfederal research community.
Nationwide, research on particulate matter is still largely uncoordinated and fragmented. Improvements in federal and nonfederal particulate-matter research coordination would enhance the likelihood of producing information that is useful in public-policy decisions and, ultimately, improves public health. The fragmented nature of the program is apparent even within EPA, with only loose connections established among programs oriented to monitoring for regulatory compliance, understanding the atmospheric transport and fate of particulate matter and related gaseous pollutants, and understanding the interaction of particulate matter with people and the development of particulate-matter-associated disease. One contributor to the lack of coordination might be the separate funding and implementation of these activities. But even within EPA, there is little evidence of an overall strategy for meaningfully coordinating the diverse array of intramural particulate-matter-related research activities under way with that conducted extramurally under EPA financial sponsorship.
Although many particulate-matter research activities have been under way for some time, and despite the worthwhile particulate-matter research workshops recently held by EPA, CDC, and HEI, the level of communication among the participants and with other stakeholders is mostly informal and insufficient. With the infusion of additional funds, recruitment of new participants, and initiation of new activities, communication among particulate-matter research investigators will need to improve. In particular, research scientists need to interact while research is being planned. It is not sufficient to hold workshops or symposia on the results of past research.
A comprehensive "evergreen" inventory is critically needed for particulate-matter-related research and monitoring projects, containing information on key participants, goals, hypotheses, research strategies, resource levels, anticipated deliverables, and schedules. The availability
of such information on-line and regularly updated would serve to stimulate interactions, identify gaps, improve the framing of research hypotheses, and avoid unnecessary duplication. The availability of such an inventory would also facilitate oversight of the particulate-matter research program. The inventories being prepared by EPA and HEI for federal and nonfederal particulate-matter research (see Appendix B) represent a good starting point and should continue.
The complexity of the issues being addressed, even in this era of modern communication technology, also requires regular face-to-face discussions among investigators. Interdisciplinary communication needs to be fostered to complement the already well-developed intradisciplinary communication forums, such as the American Thoracic Society, American Association for Aerosol Research, Society of Toxicology, International Society of Exposure Analysis, and International Society of Environmental Epidemiology. The travel budgets for EPA intramural and extramural researchers should be made adequate for this purpose.
Research activities, even those with a clear initial focus, require periodic reassessment to maintain focus, relevance, and accountability. This need is especially apparent for some of EPA's research activities that have been under way for a number of years. In some cases, these activities were initiated in the early 1990s, anticipating preparation of the most recent criteria document for particulate matter. It would be advantageous in such cases for individual EPA scientists and research-program managers, as well as outside scientists, to reassess periodically these research activities in light of current goals and new tools and knowledge. This is especially critical for intramural research activities in EPA's laboratories, as well as research supported by other funding sources. Ongoing activities need the same level of review and scrutiny as newly initiated activities to ensure maximum return on research investments.
INTRAMURAL AND EXTRAMURAL TALENT
The briefings provided by EPA to this committee in January and February 1998 provided a big-picture view of the agency's particulate-matter-related research and monitoring activities. It is anticipated that additional material and future briefings will provide more detailed information on individual projects. However, the briefings provided to date have not articulated a clear overall EPA strategy for coordinating intramural and extramural research activities and making complementary use of them to address particulate-matter issues.
Researchers with varied disciplinary backgrounds, both within and outside of EPA, can contribute a great deal to improving scientific knowledge on particulate matter and health. It is crucial that EPA develop a more proactive and clearer overall strategy for engaging outside talent and integrating their particulate-matter research contributions with the intramural research being conducted within EPA's laboratories. EPA has available for its use a number of administrative vehicles for supporting research outside the agency, including contracts for completion of specific tasks, cooperative agreements, competitive research grants, and grants to research centers. Each vehicle has advantages and limitations. The committee expects in its subsequent reviews to further examine the current use of these different vehicles by the agency, and to make recommendations on how to enhance their value.
SUSTAINING ADEQUATE RESEARCH SUPPORT
The uncertainties in scientific knowledge available today for regulatory decisionmaking on particulate matter have hampered efforts to set the NAAQS and to develop control strategies for achieving them. These uncertainties are largely the result of past inadequacies in support for research to understand the links between sources of particulate matter and related health responses. If substantial progress is to be made in resolving these uncertainties, there must be sustained support of both
goal-oriented research and investigator-driven research for a decade or more.
Current scientific knowledge of particulate-matter health effects has been developed by research projects conducted in government, academic, and private laboratories, with financial support from government and the private sector. Most of the research has been funded by EPA, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and some state governments, notably California. Modest research resources have also been provided by the electric power industry (via the Electric Power Research Institute), the motor-vehicle industry (via the Health Effects Institute and others) and the chemical industry (via the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology and others).
The research agenda recommended by the committee in this report targets key uncertainties and information gaps, and, if followed, will lead to improved scientific knowledge on particulate matter and public health. The research agenda cannot be accomplished, however, without a sustained commitment to funding over the next decade or more. In the past, research funding for air pollution and other topics has too often been ad hoc and transient, following the schedule and demands of legislation, regulatory standard-setting, and administrative timetables, and not the feasible pace of research. The committee's recommended research agenda cannot be accomplished without commitment to funding research over a longer term, extending well beyond the year 2002, (the date for the completion of the next review cycle for particulate matter). The committee's research portfolio, presented in this report, extends through 2010. The committee has no doubt that the adverse effects of particulate matter will remain as a public-health concern until contemporary questions about the short-term and long-term effects of particulate matter are answered.
The President's request to Congress for Fiscal 1999 funding for particulate-matter research in EPA approximated the Fiscal 1997 funding level and was substantially less than the congressionally approved Fiscal 1998 budget. This committee believes that the President's Fiscal 1999 request is insufficient to support the particulate-matter research
agenda recommended in this report for addressing the highest-priority research needs. The committee recommends that Congress correct this by making an appropriate commitment to particulate-matter research that includes the levels recommended in this report, as well as other particulate-matter research and development activities required by EPA. Without this commitment, a successful research agenda can not be implemented and sustained. Major uncertainties will continue to plague the next review of the particulate-matter standards, as well as the development of control strategies, to the detriment of both public health and the nation's economy.
Multiple sources of funding need to be continued. However, a sustained high level of funding through a single federal agency such as EPA is needed if critical research is to resolve major uncertainties. The members of this committee were encouraged by the leadership recently shown by the U.S. Congress when it provided supplemental funding to EPA for an enhanced particulate-matter research program in Fiscal 1998, and we recommend support at the same level for the next several years.