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To: EDSTAC Members and Alternates
From: Communications and Outreach Work Group
Subject: Proposed Recommendations from the Communications and Outreach Work Group for EDSTAC Consideration
Date: February 10, 1998
The Communications and Outreach Work Group (COWG) proposes the EDSTAC consider the following recommendations for inclusion in the final EDSTAC report to EPA. A brief description of recommendations to EPA, as well as COWG recommendations to the Committee, are provided below for the Committee's consideration and review. The COWG intends to use this document as the foundation for the work group's presentation at the EDSTAC's December plenary meeting in Orlando, Florida. Once the COWG has the Committee's "buy-in" and approval of these recommendations, the work group will move forward with drafting the EDSTAC report language for Committee review.
Recommendations to the EPA
RECOMMENDATION # 1: EDSTAC recommends that EPA develop and implement a comprehensive national education, communication and outreach strategy for the screening and testing program and endocrine disruptor Issues
An effective and comprehensive education, communication and outreach strategy for EPA's screening and testing program is necessary if the program is to succeed. The issue of endocrine disruption is very technical and scientific in nature. The screening and testing program will inevitably produce an abundance of information on this issue, some of which may be controversial and sensitive to various interests and may, therefore, have great implications for the public. As results of the screening and testing program are generated it will become increasingly imperative that EPA educate the public and communicate what this information means and/or does not mean. The success or failure of the screening and testing program could be contingent on the amount and quality of information that the public receives.
Such a strategy is comprised of many different components, all of which seek to create an open and transparent process that will enable all interested members of the public to learn about the issue of endocrine disruption and, more specifically, about the screening and testing program for their own purposes and/or for the purpose of providing information to others. The strategy should take into consideration basic questions such as: (1) who is the audience?; (2) what is the message?; (3) at what junctures is communication necessary?; through what vehicles and mechanisms should information be communicated?; (4) at what particular levels, using what language, and by means of what types of documents should communication occur?; (5) what is the motive for communicating (e.g., public protection and right-to-know, seek well informed and educated audience)?; and (6) was the communication successful (e.g., did the public understand the message?)?
As EPA creates and implements this comprehensive national education, communication and outreach strategy, EDSTAC recommends that the Agency consider including the following components:
An effective public health communication activity should begin with a thorough understanding of the target audience, as indicated above. Therefore, EPA should clearly identify who their audience is, and analyze what the needs are of each audience segment, prior to implementation of the screening and testing program and, more specifically, the national education, communication and outreach strategy.
MESSAGES TO COMMUNICATE
Tailor:Given the diversity in the audience interested in this issue, EPA should provide information tailored for the various segments of its audience. Messages should be clear, concise, understandable, and useful to all interested members of the public.
Communicate Uncertainties/Disagreements: Given the scientific uncertainties that surround the issue of endocrine disruption, and the role that such uncertainties play in the decision-making process of the Screening and Testing Program, EPA should clearly communicate to the public things such as:
- what is known;
- what is not known;
- what level of uncertainties are or are not established;
- what has been done to reduce uncertainties;
- what will be done to further reduce uncertainties;
- the caveats that are built into setting standards and developing risk assessments; and
- the disagreements in the scientific community that arise from uncertainty about endocrine disruptors.
Assure Validity of Program: To allay any public concern about industry-conducted screens and tests, and to assure the validity of the Screening and Testing Program, EPA should clearly articulate the complete process followed and the safeguards that are in place to ensure that discrepancies do not occur within the system.
TIMING/FREQUENCY OF COMMUNICATIONS
In order to fully educate and inform the public, EPA should (at a minimum) communicate the following endocrine disruption activities:
- Announce the completion of the EDSTAC process and the receipt of its report and recommendations;
- Announce EPA's response to the EDSTAC's report and recommendations, including issues surrounding the scope, timing elements, and interpretation of results of the screening and testing program; and
- Announce the results of the screening and testing program in periodic timeframes, including:
- After the initial pre-screening when chemicals are sorted into categories and prioritized for next steps (i.e., when chemicals are identified to go directly to Hazard Assessment, "Hold" unless..., or into systematic priority setting);
- Before chemicals go into either the "high throughput pre-screening" track or the "prioritized for phase I screening and testing" track;
- After each phase when a chemical (or group) is targeted for further testing or for no further testing at this time; and
- When an endocrine disruptor has been identified.
EPA should use a combination of proactive communication (EPA-initiated efforts to put information in the hands of the public via a variety of means, such as outreach mailings, press releases, public briefings, etc.) and passive communication (EPA makes the information available for those who wish to access and acquire the information, via the Internet, FR notices, trade journals, etc.). Proactive communication should be used at key points in the program when information is generated that will affect the subsequent screening and testing. Passive communication is best for updates, program progress, and providing larger amounts of more detailed information.
VEHICLES FOR COMMUNICATING
In order to fully reach all segments of the interested audience, EPA should use as many as possible of the variety of vehicles available to communicate endocrine disruption issues and the Screening and Testing Program -- including, but not limited to, the following:
- The Federal Register
- The media (national television, radio, and print news; trade press; etc.)
- The Internet/Web Site
- Public meetings (town hall, church, PTA...)
- School presentations (all grade levels)
- Association meetings (e.g., scientific, medical, technical, etc.)
- Speaking engagements
- Workshops, seminars
- Magazines, trade journals
- Train-the-trainer type activities
- EPA's Environmental Education Grants and Regional Education Grants Programs
- Regional and state staff members
- Other federal, state, and local government agencies
MECHANISMS OF COMMUNICATION
To ensure messages reach all segments of the interested audience, EPA should use as many mechanisms of communication as possible--including, but not limited to, the following:
- Federal Register Notices (FRNs)
- Pesticide Registration Notices (PRNs)
- Press releases, press advisories, notes-to-correspondents
- Question and answer documents
- Fact sheets (general and specific)
- Periodical reports (e.g., quarterly updates, annual reports, etc.)
- Pamphlets, booklets, brochures, tri-folds
- Video presentations
- Audio presentations
- Slide presentations
The COWG is in the process of drafting a sample Q&A fact sheet addressing the list of questions presented to the Priority Setting Work Group prior to the last plenary in New York. These questions deal with the interpretation of the list of chemicals designated as having priority for screening and/or testing in Phase I. The work group envisions EPA utilizing such documents as a means of describing basic features of lists and other data developed throughout the screening and testing program. Once finalized by the work group and reviewed by the Committee, it is recommended that this document be included as an appendix to the report. A list of the questions being discussed at the work group level is attached to this document.
DEVELOPMENT OF BACKGROUND INFORMATION AS PART OF A LENDING LIBRARY
As the interest in the endocrine disruption issues increases, there is a growing need for basic information that can be used in giving presentations to diverse audiences. Although the content of endocrine presentations will vary depending on the audience and the presenter, there is certain basic information that is agreed upon by most experts in the field and needs to be communicated. Many of the communication mechanisms listed above could be included in such a library.
RECOMMENDATION # 2: EDSTAC recommends that EPA allocate sufficient resources, and provide high-level attention, to conducting the national education, communications and outreach strategy.
Management of the screening and testing program will be a significant new responsibility of the EPA. In order to conduct a comprehensive national education, communications and outreach strategy for this program and for endocrine disruption issues in an effective manner, EPA must have available and commit adequate: staff in various disciplines (scientific, technical, communication/information); funding (budget earmarked specifically for endocrine disruption efforts); and high-level attention to these tasks. This complicated subject matter, and the number of EPA offices involved, makes it critical for the Agency to carefully scrutinize and coordinate the communications regarding the results of screening and testing program, as well as other endocrine disruption information. To ensure that this national strategy is conducted (within and outside the Agency) in a consistent and coordinated manner, EDSTAC recommends that EPA manage all communication efforts surrounding the Screening and Testing Program at the Assistant Administrator-level.
Recommendations to the EDSTAC
RECOMMENDATION #1 to the EDSTAC: The EDSTAC should develop and participate in a "roll-out" strategy for the release of the draft and final report
The members of the EDSTAC have invested a great deal of time and energy into drafting these recommendations to the EPA in the form of a report. It is, therefore, appropriate for the Committee members to recommend a "roll-out" strategy to EPA for the release of the report prior to the SAB/SAP process, and then again for the release of the final report. The COWG has drafted a preliminary recommendation of a "roll-out" strategy for EDSTAC's transmittal of the "draft final" report to EPA by the end of February, 1998, and would like the Committee's feedback on this concept.
The basic recommendation that the work group is seeking comment on is that the Committee follow the NAS/NRC approach of having two oral briefings, coupled with a communications package containing a press release, a summary of the report, and how/where to obtain a copy and additional information. Copies of the report should be available to those attending the briefings. The first briefing would be to the press corps, and the second, for the stakeholder groups and interested public. Both briefings would be held on the same day. The press should receive the package of material 24 hours ahead of time, or whatever is the usual custom. The following is a suggested format (for both presentations):
1. Introduction by Dr. Goldman: explain the background, what the report is and isn't, the process, the general features of the report, and subsequent steps and timeframes.
2. Overview by the Co-chairs of each of the four work groups of each work group's deliberations and recommendations: Principles, Priority Setting, Screening and Testing, and Communications and Outreach.
3. Closing remarks by Dr. Goldman: emphasize the subsequent steps (what they are and what will happen at each step) and how/when comments on the report can be made.
4. Q&A session
Announcement of the briefings should be made 30 days in advance, using traditional EPA methods of making such announcements. The list of people who have been receiving EDSTAC material, including the list of 1,500 or so persons who received the EPA mailing in September should be included in the notification. Part of the communications methods would be the traditional Federal Register announcement of the SAP/SAB meeting and how the report can be obtained.
RECOMMENDATION #2 to the EDSTAC: Ensure commitment of EDSTAC members.
As discussed at the last plenary meeting in New York, Committee members preliminarily agreed to the concept of committing to the principles and agreements garnered throughout the consensus-building process. Language to this regard will be distributed for discussion at the plenary meeting in Orlando.
Example Questions for Q&A Fact Sheet
Being Drafted by COWG
This document will describe basic features of the list of chemicals which have been assigned to screening and/or testing in Phase I of the endocrine disruptor screening and testing program, including suggestions on how to interpret the list.
The following questions are being considered by the Communications and Outreach Work Group.
1. What does this list mean?
2. What are the chemicals on the list?
3. How were the chemicals selected?
4. Who was involved in creating the list?
5. Does the list include existing lists of chemicals thought to be potential endocrine disruptors?
6. What is known and unknown about the chemicals on the list?
7. What criteria were established for putting chemicals on the list?
8. Were the established criteria followed?
9. Are there other ways to get a chemical on the list, or considered for inclusion?
10. For what purpose will the list be used?
11. For what purpose should the list not be used?