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Quality assurance is a part of all our lives. Whether working on a project, competing in a marathon, or providing those we love with a delicious apple pie dessert, we Plan, we Implement, and then we Evaluate/assess to determine if all was acceptable as planned and if there are any changes to be made next time. Planning + Implementing + Evaluating are the fundamental ingredients of the Quality PIE.
Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP)
The QAPP documents the project planning process and serves as a blueprint for how your project will run. It provides the: who, what, when where, why and how of the project, and applies whenever you produce or collect environmental data. Examples of environmental data include: measurements, analytical results, instrument readings, observations, environmental information collected from existing data sources, incident rates, and survey results.
When is a QAPP Needed?
- For every project that collects or uses environmental data
- Necessary if you want others to consider using your data
- Required for all projects funded by EPA that involve collection and/or use of environmental data
The goal is to ensure that environmental information collected and/or used by Citizen Scientists is credible and useable. The QAPP should describe specific goals and quality objectives for the project, through sampling and analysis methodology, to documentation and information usability. Even if your project is not funded by EPA, a QAPP should be incorporated into all environmental data collection and use projects. QAPPs help to ensure that your study will answer your questions or objectives, and that the data can be used for its intended purpose. It is especially important if you want others to consider using your information. If your objective is to provide data for a specific organization to influence or support a decision, the best approach is to find out what that organizations data quality needs are for decision making. The organization may only use a specific type of data for final decision-making, but may be able to consider other types of data as supporting information.
There are a wide range of Citizen Science projects from educational to those supporting academic research or regulatory development. Similarly, the complexity of a QAPP could range from a few pages in a lesson plan to a longer, more formal document. Recognizing that a “one size fits all” QAPP will not work for all projects, applying a “graded approach” permits the appropriate level of detail for the project. With this in mind, Region 2 developed new QAPP guidance specifically aimed at the Citizen Science program. The new guidance complies with EPA Quality Assurance (QA) requirements, but streamlines existing guidance, using a template format, and includes a citizen science project example.
For more information on quality assurance requirements for organizations receiving EPA financial assistance, go to http://www.epa.gov/ogd/grants/assurance.htm
Visit the Project Considerations page when developing your QAPP.
The following links provide other sources of Quality Assurance Information
The Volunteer Monitor’s Guide to Quality Assurance Project Plans (EPA 841-B-00-001)
Quality Assurance Guidance Documents for Air Monitoring
EPA Region 2’s Quality Assurance Program
EPA's Quality System for Environmental Data and Technology