Request for Information (RFI): Superfund Research Program Strategic Planning

Notice Number: NOT-ES-10-003

Key Dates
Release Date:  December 17, 2009
Response Date: January 29, 2010

Issued by
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), (


The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Superfund Research Program (SRP) is developing a strategic plan to achieve its mandates described in SARA Section 311(a) “Hazardous Substances Research and Training.” These mandates authorized NIEHS to create a university-based basic research and training program for the development of (1) advanced techniques for the detection, assessment, and evaluation of the effect on human health of hazardous substances; (2) methods to assess the risks to human health presented by hazardous substances; (3) methods and technologies to detect hazardous substances in the environment; and (4) basic biological, chemical, and physical methods to reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous substances. 

This Request for Information (RFI) is directed toward prioritizing science and enhancing the impact of the Superfund Research Program (SRP) as part of a strategic planning process, which will achieve a number of objectives:

To aid in the development of a comprehensive strategic plan, SRP is seeking input from those with a shared interest in the effects of hazardous substances on public health, including sister Superfund agency representatives (i.e. United States Environmental Protection Agency, US EPA; and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, ATSDR), other government officials, environmental health researchers, academics, members of the private sector, policy makers, etc.


The SRP was created under the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986 to meet the need for innovative strategies and technologies to offer solutions to the magnitude and complexity of Superfund mitigation and management.  The legislation calls for a basic research and training program with four target research areas: human health effects, risk assessment, detection technologies, and remediation approaches relevant to hazardous substances.  SRP mandates are available on the SRP Strategic Planning web page:

The resulting program concept features integration of many different disciplines to address the complex, interdependent yet fundamental issues that arise in relation to hazardous substances.  A particular focus has been on the interaction between biomedical research (toxicology and molecular biology) and non-biomedical disciplines such as engineering, geosciences, and ecology.  In addition to the strong basic research focus of the Program, there is an equally important commitment to create an environment that fosters the use and application of the scientific accomplishments emanating from the Program to its stakeholders -- whether to industry via technology transfer, to the government through partnerships, or to the public through community outreach.  In addition, the Program seeks to train the next generation of researchers and professionals tasked with protecting humans and the overall environment from the risks of hazardous substances.  Through this framework, the Program seeks to provide new tools and approaches for the management of hazardous substances with the ultimate goal of improving human health.  For details on the research projects SRP funds, as well as the funding mechanisms, please visit the SRP “Who We Fund” website:

Strategic Planning

SRP believes research plays a crucial role in finding solutions to the challenges posed by environmental contamination such as health risks, toxicity, exposure predictions, fate and transport, and the need for cost-effective monitoring and treatment strategies for hazardous waste sites found throughout the United States.  Part of the strategic planning process is to identify ways to prioritize programmatic direction and to achieve balance against the many competing demands for research on hazardous substances. SRP also seeks to make the Program’s valuable research advances more accessible to end-users in order to maximize the overall impact of the program.  In essence, the strategic plan will guide the SRP in directing research activities in such a way as to make a more concerted, significant contribution to society.  SRP seeks to achieve these goals through enhancing existing Program components: interdisciplinary research, graduate training, research translation, and community engagement.

Information Requested

The questions below will be used to shape a 5-year strategic plan to provide the Program direction in establishing a framework for prioritization of activities and to identify approaches to enhance the impact of the SRP program.  Respondents are encouraged to consider innovative, visionary ideas and to provide comments to help revitalize, stimulate and shape the NIEHS Superfund Research Program.  

All questions, except for affiliation, are optional.  For transparency, questionnaire responses will be compiled and posted on the SRP Strategic Planning website, using affiliation as the only identifier.  We ask that you limit your responses to no more than 300 words.  The SRP website provides information about the program that may aid in answering the questions below:

Affiliation (required) 

  1. Please indicate which category best describes you: University – SRP-funded (current or past grantee); University – not SRP-funded, US EPA (office/division); ATSDR; Other Federal Government; State/Local Government; Industry; Small Business; Not-for-Profit; General Public; Other.
Additional Contact Information
  1. If you wish, you may provide additional contact information (email, address, phone).  Please indicate whether or not you permit SRP to contact you.

Scope of Science.  Part of the SRP strategic planning process is to identify ways to prioritize programmatic direction and to achieve balance given the many competing demands for research on hazardous substances. 

  1. Given the breadth of Program mandates, what prioritization criteria should SRP use to guide inclusion of themes and issues to achieve Program balance?

In your response, you may wish to consider:  potential for exposure; contaminant recalcitrance; elucidating new toxicity modalities; balance between: hazardous waste & hazardous substances, basic & applied research; emerging & established contaminants, human health & ecological health.   Provide specific examples as necessary.

Interdisciplinary Research.  To address the complexity of environmental health issues, SRP endorses interdisciplinary research, or, interactions between researchers from a wide range of disciplines relevant to Program mandates.  

  1. What approaches (research or otherwise) will mostly effectively foster interdisciplinary interactions? 

Training.  To fulfill SARA mandates, SRP supports graduate training within funded grants.  Given the interdisciplinary context of SRP, graduate trainees are exposed to multiple disciplines and, therefore, are well positioned to meet the complex challenges in environmental health as well as mitigation and management of hazardous substances.  

  1. What approaches or activities should SRP consider to enhance the impact of graduate training?

 Identifying Stakeholders.  SRP defines “stakeholders” as individuals, groups, or organizations likely to benefit from the SRP.  In order to maximize the impact of program science, it is important to know the SRP stakeholders and how to reach them . 

  1. Who are SRP’s stakeholders and what approaches or mechanisms can SRP use to most effectively interact with them?

Research Translation.  Research translation is a concerted effort to ensure research is accessible to end-users.  SRP supports research translation activities with the goal of accelerating the useful application of SRP science advances. 

  1. What are the best ways for SRP to achieve its goal of accelerating research translation? 

In your response, you may wish to consider how the program can accelerate research translation through: effective methods of communication, data sharing, technology transfer, etc.

Community Engagement.  Community outreach has been a long tradition of the SRP.  SRP seeks input to most appropriately focus its community involvement, given the context of a grant program mandated to address hazardous substances. 

  1. What approaches to community engagement are most appropriate for SRP? 

In your response, you may wish to consider: which communities to target, what the community needs, what approach is most effective, how to engage communities, etc.

  1. What disciplines are needed to make the greatest impact in community engagement? 

Grant Mechanisms.  As a university-based grant program, SRP has flexibility to offer a number of grant mechanisms.  Grant mechanisms specify the structure of the research team (such as single-project, multi-project), the size of the teams, the disciplines represented, etc.  Please consider the following question from this perspective.

  1. What research team structure(s) and/or disciplines are needed to make the greatest advances in SRP Program mandates? 

Additional Comments.  SRP invites respondents to provide any additional thoughts, comments, or ideas that were not covered in responses to the previous questions. 


You may use a variety of tools to respond to the questionnaire; however, all responses must be received not later than January 29, 2010. The following are acceptable ways to submit your responses:

  1. Fill out the online questionnaire available on the Superfund Research Program Strategic Planning web page:

  2. Copy and paste the above questions into the body of an e-mail message and send your responses to:

  3. Mail or fax your responses in a letter to the attention of “SRP Strategic Planning” at the below address.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
National Institutes of Health
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Division of Extramural Research and Training
P.O. Box 12233 (MD K3-04)
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
(Fax) 919-316-4606

In addition to the questionnaire above, SRP will be holding face-to-face and web-based seminars to receive input from the public.  For more information about these seminars and the strategic planning process, please visit:


If you have any additional questions, please email or contact:

Beth Anderson, MA
Program Analyst, Superfund Research Program
Telephone: 919-541-4481

Heather Henry, PhD
Program Administrator, Superfund Research Program
Telephone: 919-541-5330

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