The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) invites qualified investigators from domestic institutions of higher education to submit an application for a Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center grant. SRP legislation, under the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986, allows NIEHS the flexibility to create university-based Centers to conduct scientific research to address the wide array of scientific uncertainties facing the national Superfund program.
The complex problems related to sites impacted by hazardous substances (e.g., Superfund and related sites) require the expertise of multiple biomedical and environmental science and engineering disciplines. Applicants responding to this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) are expected to design a research Center that integrates environmental health science with environmental science and engineering (e.g., geochemical, ecological sciences). The goal of the NIEHS SRP Center is to improve public health by supporting integrative, multidisciplinary research incorporating the following:
Responsiveness to Mandates: SARA Section 311(a) “Hazardous Substances Research and Training,” authorizes NIEHS to create a basic research and training program for the development of:
- advanced techniques for the detection, assessment, and evaluation of the effect of hazardous substances on human health;
- methods to assess the risks to human health presented by hazardous substances;
- methods and technologies to detect hazardous substances in the environment; and
- basic biological, chemical, and physical methods to reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous substances.
To accomplish these mandates, Centers are expected to assemble interdisciplinary research and training teams with expertise in biomedical science, environmental science and engineering, research translation, and community engagement.
Relevance to Superfund: SRP considers the diverse research and information needs of its stakeholders as important criteria for determining relevance. The SRP’s primary stakeholders are its sister Superfund programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, http://www.epa.gov/superfund/index.htm) and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR, http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov). Additional stakeholders include other Federal agencies, State, local, and Tribal entities responsible for sites impacted by hazardous substances, as well as the individuals and communities living near these sites. SRP’s ultimate goal is to protect human health by providing a rigorous scientific basis for effective decision-making by these stakeholders. Consequently, SRP-funded research is expected to provide fundamentally sound science, while providing data, information, and knowledge to inform the risk assessment and remediation management processes for hazardous waste sites. Therefore, investigators should seek input from stakeholders during application development and identify critical issues for which fundamental science is needed. They should clearly describe how results gained from the studies are relevant to Superfund. They should also indicate how these studies will lead to better decision making for risk assessors and remediation managers at Superfund sites and/or addressing uncertainties involved in understanding disease/dysfunction for communities impacted by hazardous substances.
Problem-based, Solution-oriented Research Theme: As an integrated research program, SRP Centers have the opportunity to tackle complex biomedical and environmental science and engineering issues identified by stakeholders, bringing a mechanistic understanding to solve some of the vexing problems associated with Superfund and other similar hazardous waste sites. Applicants are expected to design Centers that will contribute to solving a particular problem (or set of problems) related to SRP’s mandates: health effects, risk, detection, and/or remediation of hazardous substances. Applicants should clearly describe the problem(s) being addressed by the overall Center, how the components of the Center interact to solve the target problem(s), and the role of each project and core in contributing to its resolution. The problem being solved could be a discreet but critical gap in the larger context of a complex issue, or it may answer a discrete question that, if left unanswered, would create an impediment to effectively protecting public health.
Innovation: SRP strives to push the boundaries of science using the newest technologies and challenging the current scientific paradigms. SRP firmly supports trans-disciplinary research, through the synthesis and extension of disciplinary boundaries that adapt technologies and approaches from one field and apply them to other fields in order to solve challenging environmental health problems. Forward-looking or ‘‘anticipatory’’ research is critical to identify and address future stakeholder needs. This may include utilizing cutting-edge research tools, developing new risk frameworks, or devising more sustainable solutions to address issues at sites affected by hazardous substances.
Research Translation: SRP is committed to fostering the translation of the scientific accomplishments emanating from an SRP Center to its stakeholders. A required Research Translation Core (RTC) will facilitate and coordinate communication of the results, accomplishments, and implications of the Center’s research to stakeholders in a context that makes the research applicable to the target audience. In addition, the RTC functions as a resource to assist in identifying potential research translation opportunities (e.g., investigator-initiated research translation) for its Center’s research projects and a communication hub to the NIEHS SRP staff and to the other SRP Centers.
Community Engagement: The SRP views Community Engagement as an effective way to inform and advance science for public health protection. Community Engagement connects the Center’s science with issues that are identified as locally relevant by communities and may often complement the research strengths and problem-solving goal of the Center. All applicants are required to include a Community Engagement Core (CEC) to enhance the bi-directional exchange of knowledge and to support the needs of the community with regard to the science emanating from the Center. SRP also encourages applicants to include, as part of their Center, a community engagement research project that involves community members in the planning and conducting of the research.
Training: The SRP requires applicants to include a Training Core to support graduate and postdoctoral level cross-disciplinary training in fields related to environmental health and environmental science and engineering. The SRP regards the Training Core as a vital component to the mentorship, education, and training of the next generation of environmental health and science professionals.
Applicants are encouraged to refer to the SRP’s Strategic Plan (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/dert/cris/programs/srp/about/register/index.cfm) which describes and defines the objectives and goals of the SRP in order to address its mandates. The three primary objectives of the SRP are to (1) address issues of high relevance, (2) maximize the impact of SRP investments, and (3) foster innovation. In addition, the SRP Mandates are provided on the following website: http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/dert/cris/programs/srp/about/program/index.cfm.