Promising Changes Improve EPA's Extramural Research; More Changes Needed

Gao ID: CED-81-6 October 28, 1980

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made a number of changes to the planning and management of its research activities. If properly implemented, they should improve the EPA research program. GAO discussed some problems which require further attention, and factors and weaknesses which, unless corrected, could continue to seriously hamper the EPA ability to meet its research needs.

GAO found that: (1) offices responsible for implementing EPA programs do not always participate with its research office in determining the size and scope of projects, possibly resulting in research that does not meet EPA program office needs; (2) the EPA research office has not yet fully implemented reviews of its research programs, projects, and results by experts inside and outside of EPA to determine their scientific and technical merit and validity; (3) project offices could not adequately monitor researchers' technical progress in conducting projects outside of EPA because of heavy workloads and travel limitations; (4) contracts generally take substantially longer to award than EPA standard acquisition leadtimes, thereby unduly delaying the start of needed research; and (5) EPA lacks information on past performances of outside researchers for use in determining which applicants appear best qualified to perform new projects. EPA was not satisfactorily fulfilling its research needs because of inadequate coordination, insufficient attention to long-term anticipatory research, and lack of peer review.


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