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Building A Foundation For Sound Environmental Decisions

Executive Summary

In order to provide the knowledge needed to solve environmental problems, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must continue to support and maintain a strong research effort. An evolving understanding of the complexity, magnitude, and inter-relatedness of environmental problems leads us to conclude that a new balance of research programs will be helpful in achieving this goal.

The charge to this committee was to provide an overview of significant emerging environmental issues; identify and prioritize research themes and projects that are most relevant to understanding and resolving these issues; and consider the role of EPA's research program in addressing these issues in the context of research being conducted or sponsored by other organizations. After careful deliberation, the committee decided to go beyond simply presenting a limited list of important issues. Such an exercise would provide a mere snapshot in time, based on the insights of one particular collection of individuals. Instead, this report provides a broad overview of many important current and emerging environmental issues. It then presents a useful framework for thinking about and planning environmental research and describes major research themes and programs of relevance to EPA. (This committee was not asked to, and did not, address issues concerning EPA's research infrastructure, the appropriate balance between internal and external research, or appropriate mechanisms for peer review. A second NRC committee is examining these sorts of questions. Its report will be available later in 1997.)

This report defines two kinds of environmental research—problem-driven research and core research. Problem-driven research is targeted at understanding and solving particular, identified environmental problems. Core research aims to provide broader, more generic information that will help improve understanding of many problems now and in the future. Core research includes three components:

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 No. 342
 Posted on 9 June, 2006
 
 
 
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