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EPA Research

Strategic Research Planning at EPA

The primary focus of EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) is to provide the strong scientific and technical foundation the Agency relies on to fulfill its statutory obligations and help Agency, state, and other partners address their most pressing environmental and related public health challenges.

Our strategic research planning ensures a collaborative, transparent, and highly coordinated research program that delivers the data and information that Agency program and regional offices need, while also providing a suite of innovative models, interactive dashboards, tools, and other resources that help states, local communities, and other partners protect their environment, safeguard public health, and increase human well-being. View ORD's Strategic Plan 2018-2022.

Like environmental science itself, ORD’s strategic research planning is constantly changing to build on its foundation of past success while adapting to meet new and more complex challenges. That effort is outlined below.

Research Planning: Supporting Agency Goals and the Administrator’s Priorities

EPA’s collective research effort is guided by the FY 2018-2022 EPA Strategic Plan, which identifies the Agency’s major goals and highlights the Administrator’s core philosophies. Science is an explicit part of the plan, and a critical component of achieving the goals and core philosophies outlined.

As per the EPA Strategic Plan, ORD’s research planning aligns six National Research Programs to collectively target the science and engineering needed to “Deliver real results to provide Americans with clean air, land, and water, and ensure chemical safety,” support “cooperative federalism” through true partnerships between Agency researchers and State environmental and public health agencies, and “Refocus the EPA’s robust research and scientific analysis to inform policy making.”

Strategic Research Action Planning: Partnership and Consensus

Each National Research Program is guided by a Strategic Research Action Plan (StRAP), a blue print to structure and coordinate research activities. To develop each StRAP, program leaders and staff engage Agency program offices and external partners and stakeholders in open communications to identify the environmental and public health challenges they face. Then, StRAP-development-teams carefully align research and technical activities to ensure they deliver the specific research products, models, tools, and other outputs required to meet those challenges.

By cultivating such partnerships and facilitating ongoing communication between EPA’s Office of Research and Development and its partners, the Agency has produced an overall research program that can incorporate user-feedback to fine-tune ongoing research. Working closely with partners also facilitates the translation of results in ways that make them immediately applicable to decisions and activities ensuring chemical safety and advancing clean air, land, and water.

StRAPs and Roadmaps

To strengthen individual StRAPs and ensure that research on cross-cutting issues is coordinated and collaborative, ORD produced a set of “Research Roadmaps.” The Roadmaps served to coordinate cross-program planning for four high-priority research areas:

  • Nitrogen and Co-Pollutants
  • Children’s Environmental Health
  • Climate Change
  • Environmental Justice

Much of the research identified in the Research Roadmaps has been delivered or is well on its way to completion. The collaborative, cross-program work outlined in the Roadmaps has now been woven into the fabric of how this research is planned and conducted across ORD. ORD has determined that continuation of these Research Roadmap documents is no longer needed for lowering programmatic barriers and catalyzing transdisciplinary work.

The legacy of the Roadmaps informs the next iteration of StRAP planning and the heightened ORD focus on translational research, delivering research results that directly inform the decision-support needs of partners on their priority environmental risks. This translational research engagement between ORD and our partners spans problem formulation, through research execution, to a mutual evaluation of the decision-support utility of results.

Building on Past Strategic Success

The Agency is currently developing the third edition of its six Strategic Action Research Plans, which will cover fiscal years 2019 to 2022. Building on the successful model outlined above, the National Research Programs are again engaged in planned, methodical partner engagement to identify research needs.

A renewed emphasis for the current effort is to more fully engage with State partners through a Memorandum of Understanding between ORD and the Environmental Council of States to meet state research needs and advance the Agency’s priority for cooperative federalism.

The new set of draft Strategic Research Action Plans is expected to be released in late 2018 and finalized in 2019. Translational research engagement will feature prominently in this next set of Strategic Research Action Plans. Please revisit this site for updates.

For questions or additional information, please contact Aaron Ferster via email: