Full Text PA-95-032

GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS IN ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SCIENCES

NIH GUIDE, Volume 24, Number 5, February 10, 1995

PA NUMBER:  PA-95-032

P.T. 34

Keywords: 
  Information Science/Systems 
  Environmental Health 


National Cancer Institute
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

PURPOSE

The Division of Cancer Etiology of the National Cancer Institute
(NCI) and the Division of Extramural Research and Training of the
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) invite
investigator-initiated grant applications to develop and explore the
utilization of geographic information systems (GIS) and related
methodologies in environmental health research.  This program
announcement (PA) focuses on stimulating epidemiologic and
statistical approaches for elucidating the geographic relationship
between environmental exposures, relevant physical measurements, and
cancer and other chronic diseases.  Interdisciplinary studies
incorporating the expertise of biostatisticians, epidemiologists,
environmental health scientists, medical geographers and computer
specialists are particularly encouraged.

The NCI is the principal Federal funding agency that supports
laboratory and clinical investigations relating to the cause,
prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.  Of special interest
are epidemiological studies incorporating quantitative methods or
markers to identify and evaluate the role of etiological factors,
including environmental and occupational agents.

The NIEHS is the principal Federal funding agency to support research
examining the human health consequences of exposure to physical and
chemical toxicants in our environment. Environmental epidemiology
studies which seek to identify exposed populations and understand the
role of environmental and occupational risk factors in the
development of environmentally-induced diseases are a major thrust of
the NIEHS research program.

HEALTHY PEOPLE 2000

The Public Health Service (PHS) is committed to achieving the health
promotion and disease prevention objectives of "Healthy People 2000,"
a PHS-led national activity for setting priority areas.  This PA,
Geographic Information Systems in Environmental Health Sciences, is
related to the priority area of cancer and chronic diseases.
Potential applicants may obtain a copy of "Healthy People 2000" (Full
Report:  Stock No. 017-001-00474-0 or Summary Report:  Stock No.
017-001-00473-1) through the Superintendent of Documents, Government
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402-9325, telephone 202-783-3238.

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS

Applications may be submitted by foreign and domestic, for-profit and
not-for-profit organizations, public and private, such as
universities, colleges, hospitals, laboratories, units of State and
local governments, eligible agencies of the Federal government, and
small businesses.  Foreign institutions are not eligible for First
Independent Research Support and Transition (FIRST) (R29) awards.
Racial/ethnic minority individuals, women and persons with
disabilities are encouraged to apply as principal investigators.

MECHANISMS OF SUPPORT

Support of this program announcement will be through individual
research project grants (R01), FIRST awards (R29), and Interactive
Research Project Grants (IRPGs).  (see PA-94-086, NIH Guide, Vol. 23,
No. 28, July 29, 1994).  NCI-funded investigators with ongoing R01,
Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) (R37), and program project
(P01) awards who are expanding the scope of their work and have at
least one year of support remaining from the anticipated date of
award may apply for competing supplement (S1) awards for the duration
of the ongoing grant.

Because the nature and scope of the research proposed in response to
this PA may vary, it is anticipated that the size of an award will
also vary.  For FIRST awards, the total direct cost award for the
five-year period may not exceed $350,000; the direct cost award in
any budget period may not exceed $100,000.

RESEARCH OBJECTIVES

Background

Modern computer technology affords environmental health scientists
access to tools that can combine data from existing registries of
environmental toxicants and chronic diseases.  Systems that analyze
the spatial, geographic and temporal relationships between these sets
of data are known as Geographic Information Systems (GIS).  The use
of GIS in environmental health research can function to aggregate
many sources of data in promoting understanding of complex
multi-dimensional relationships between pollution and disease.  These
systems might use data sources such as demographic data (e.g.,
Census), exposure databases (e.g., EPA Toxic Release Inventory), and
disease registries (e.g., cancer registries, birth-defect
registries).

Researchers can assign geographic codes to small subunits of data to
facilitate analysis of the spatial relationship among variables.  The
ability to map these variables is an important feature of GIS, since
visually displaying these interrelationships can lead to etiologic
clues. Sophisticated statistical models can be derived and utilized
to test etiologic hypotheses.  Environmental data available for these
analyses usually have been collected for purposes other than
scientific research, and techniques for ascertaining data validity
and incorporating measures of analytic uncertainty are needed.

For diseases in which environmental exposures are considered
potential risk factors, GIS and related methodologies could provide
preliminary data.  An example of such an application would be the
development of GIS approaches to the emergent question of
environmental xenoestrogens and their potential relationship to
hormone-related cancers such as breast cancer and other health
outcomes.  The ability to visualize relationships between disease
occurrence and sources of environmental exposures would facilitate
studies in environmental epidemiology, particularly for generating
etiologic hypotheses.

In contrast to descriptive approaches that aggregate exposures and
disease rates into small or large areas, a new approach is to utilize
location-specific environmental measurements together with data on
individuals with and without disease.  Data on individual risk
factors, confounders, and potential biomarkers of exposure or
susceptibility can be included.  Valid approaches are needed to
include this information in analyses.  It is necessary to address the
methodological problems that arise from the complex nature of
geographic studies.

Statistical problems arise in connection with the spatial structure
of environmental data and inherent problems of interpretation and
bias due to the nature of the data.  In studies of chronic diseases
with longer latency periods, there is the need to develop methods to
account for timelag between exposure and outcome.

Research Goals and Scope

These studies may include, but are not limited to:

o  Generating hypotheses in environmental epidemiologic studies of
spatial and temporal relationships between environmentally-induced
diseases and exposures.

o  Mapping and/or other visualization techniques for assessing
exposure data and disease incidence or mortality data for
hypothesis-generating and for purposes of conveying public health
information.

o  Identification and quantification of environmental hazards in
distinct geographic areas.

o  Use of GIS approaches to identify study populations with potential
exposure to environmental hazards.

o  Surveillance of disease outcomes in populations with exposure to
environmental pollution.

o  Validation of environmental data from existing data bases for
analytic research.

o  Statistical approaches to assess the validity and significance of
apparent time between measured or recorded exposure data and incident
cases of cancer and other chronic diseases compared with controls.

o  Development of statistical methods to account for uncertainty due
to potential confounding factors:  e.g., measurement error, repeated
measures, and missing data in applications of GIS.

o  Identification of exposures to environmental toxicants in
high-risk populations to target prevention and intervention programs.

INCLUSION OF WOMEN AND MINORITIES IN RESEARCH INVOLVING HUMAN
SUBJECTS

It is the policy of the NIH that women and members of minority groups
and their subpopulations must be included in all NIH-supported
biomedical and behavioral research projects involving human subjects,
unless a clear and compelling rationale and justification is provided
that inclusion is inappropriate with respect to the health of the
subjects or the purpose of the research.  This new policy results
from the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 (Section 492B of Public Law
103-43) and supersedes and strengthens the previous policies
(Concerning the Inclusion of Women in Study Populations, and
Concerning the Inclusion of Minorities in Study Populations) which
have been in effect since 1990.  The new policy contains some new
provisions that are substantially different from the 1990 policies.

All investigators proposing research involving human subjects should
read the "NIH Guidelines on the Inclusion of Women and Minorities as
Subjects in Clinical Research," which have been published in the
Federal Register of March 28, 1994 (FR 59 14508-14513) and reprinted
in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, Vol. 23, No. 11, March 18,
1994.

Investigators may obtain copies from these sources or from the
program staff listed under INQUIRIES.

APPLICATION PROCEDURES

Applicants for research project grants (R01, R29) and supplemental
awards are to use the grant application form PHS 398 (rev. 9/91).
Application receipt dates are listed in the PHS 398.  Application
kits are available at most institutional offices of sponsored
research and may be obtained from the Office of Grants Information,
Division of Research Grants, National Institutes of Health, Westwood
Building, Room 449, Bethesda, MD 20892, telephone (301) 435-0714.

FIRST applications must include the three sealed letters of reference
attached to the face page of the original application, or the
applications will be considered incomplete and will be returned to
the applicant.  IRPG applicants may obtain the brochure "Special
Instructions for Preparing Applications for Investigator-Initiated
Interactive Research Project Grants," available from the Office of
Grants Information, Division of Research Grants, NIH (301) 435-0714,
and from the program contacts listed under INQUIRIES.

The title and number of the program announcement must be typed in
Section 2a. on the face page of the application.  The application
must clearly state how the scientific objectives of the proposed
research will enhance our understanding of geographic approaches to
the study of environmental health sciences.  The completed original
application and five copies must be sent or delivered to:

Division of Research Grants
National Institutes of Health
6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 1040
Bethesda, MD  20892
Bethesda, MD  20817 (express mail)

REVIEW CONSIDERATIONS

Applications will be assigned on the basis of established PHS
referral guidelines.  Applications will be reviewed for scientific
and technical merit in accordance with the standard NIH peer review
procedures.  Following scientific-technical review, the applications
will receive a second-level review by the appropriate national
advisory council.

Applications that are complete and responsive to the program
announcement will be evaluated for scientific and technical merit by
an appropriate peer review group convened in accordance with the
standard NIH peer review procedures.  As part of the initial merit
review, all applications will receive a written critique and undergo
a process in which only those applications deemed to have the highest
scientific merit, generally the top half of applications under
review, will be discussed, assigned a priority score, and receive a
second level review by the appropriate national advisory council or
board.

Review Criteria

o  scientific, technical, or medical significance and originality of
proposed research;

o  appropriateness and adequacy of the experimental approach and
methodology proposed to carry out the research;

o  qualification and research experience of the Principal
Investigator and staff, particularly, but not exclusively, in the
area of the proposed research;

o  availability of the resources necessary to perform the research;

o  appropriateness of the proposed budget and duration in relation to
the proposed research;

o  Adequacy of plans to include both genders and minorities and their
subgroups as appropriate for the scientific goals of the research.
Plans for the recruitment and retention of subjects will also be
evaluated.

The initial review group will also examine the provisions for the
protection of human and animal subjects and the safety of the
research environment.

AWARD CRITERIA

Applications will compete for funds with all other approved
applications assigned to that Institute/Center.  The following
criteria will be considered when making funding decisions:

o  Quality of the proposed project as determined by peer review
o  Availability of funds
o  Program priorities

INQUIRIES

Inquiries are encouraged.  The opportunity to clarify any issues or
questions from potential applicants is welcome.  Direct inquiries
regarding programmatic issues to:

Marthana Hjortland, Ph.D.
Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program
National Cancer Institute
Executive Plaza North, Suite 535, MSC 7395
Bethesda, MD  20892-7395
Telephone:  (301) 496-9600
FAX:  (301) 402-4279
Email:  Jasonc@EPNDCE.NCI.NIH.GOV

Gwen Collman, Ph.D.
Chemical Exposures and Molecular Biology Branch
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
P.O. Box 12233
Research Triangle Park, NC  27709
Telephone:  (919) 541-4980
FAX:  (919) 541-2843
Email:  Collman@NIEHS.NIH.GOV

Direct inquiries regarding financial matters to:

Theresa A. Mercogliano
Grants Administration Branch
National Cancer Institute
Executive Plaza South, Suite 242
Bethesda, MD  20892
Telephone:  (301) 496-7800 ext. 243
Email:  Mercoglt@GAB.NCI.NIH.GOV

Dorothy Williams
Grants Management Branch
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
P.O. Box 12233
Research Triangle Park, NC  27709
Telephone:  (919) 541-7628
FAX:  (919) 541-2860
Email:  Williams@NIEHS.NIH.GOV

AUTHORITY AND REGULATIONS

This program is described in the Catalog of Federal Domestic
Assistance No. 93.393, 93.849, and 93.894.  Awards are made under the
authorization of the Public Health Service Act, Title IV, Part A
(Public Law 78-410, as amended by Public Law 99-158, 42 USC 241 and
285) and administered under PHS grants policies and Federal
Regulations 42 CFR 52 and 45 CFR Part 74.  This program is not
subject to the intergovernmental review requirements of Executive
Order 12372 or Health Systems Agency Review.

The PHS strongly encourages all grant recipients to provide a
smoke-free workplace and promote the non-use of all tobacco products.
This is consistent with the PHS mission to protect and advance the
physical and mental health of the American people.

.

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