Date: May 12, 2003 Contacts: Patrice Pages, Media Relations Officer Chris Dobbins, Media Relations Assistant Office of News and Public Information (202) 334-2138; e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
EPA Research Grants Program Judged Excellent
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's competitive research grants program has yielded significant new findings and knowledge critical for EPA's decision-making process, says a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council. Established in 1995, the grants program was designed to enable the nation's best scientists and engineers to explore new ways to safeguard the environment and protect public health. EPA gives about $100 million a year in grants and fellowships to independent investigators, multidisciplinary teams, and graduate students at universities and nonprofit institutions.
Because of its strong contributions to EPA scientific efforts, the grants program, called Science To Achieve Results (STAR), should remain an important part of the agency's overall research program, the report says. For example, STAR research has resulted in a better understanding of the effects of particulate-matter air pollution on public health, new insights on the impact of pesticides and industrial chemicals on human and wildlife reproduction, and the development of new indicators for waterborne pathogens.
"The STAR program has established and maintained a high degree of scientific excellence," said Harold Mooney, chair of the committee that wrote the report and Paul S. Achilles Professor of Environmental Biology at Stanford University in California. "It has provided EPA with independent analysis and perspective that has improved the agency's scientific foundation. By attracting young researchers, this program has also expanded the nation's environmental science infrastructure."
The STAR program has established a rigorous, independent peer-review process for selecting grant awardees and funds scientists with impressive track records, who frequently are leaders in their fields, the report says. The committee encouraged EPA to continue to attract "the best and brightest" to compete for STAR funding.
But the program does not have sufficient funds to support all of the top-rated research proposals it receives. STAR funding, which has not kept pace with inflation in recent years, should be maintained at 15 percent to 20 percent of EPA's Office of Research and Development budget, even in financially constrained times, the report says.
The STAR fellowship program, which funds research by students pursuing advanced degrees in environmental sciences, should continue, especially given the nation's need for highly qualified scientists and engineers in these fields. Most of the STAR fellowship recipients whom the committee contacted expressed high satisfaction with the program, and the majority have remained in the environmental sciences.
The study was sponsored by EPA. The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science and technology advice under a congressional charter. A committee roster follows.