Request for Information (RFI): Input on Development of a Language Standard for Environmental Health Sciences

Notice Number: NOT-ES-14-004

Key Dates
Release Date: March 11, 2014
Response Date:  April 11, 2014

Related Announcements

Issued by
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)


The goal of this Request for Information (RFI) is to solicit comments and ideas to guide the development and implementation of a common language standard for environmental health data and associated metadata.


The generation of data continues to increase at an exponential rate, yet application of semantic web approaches has the potential to increase discovery.  Environmental health science is a particularly rich field for scientific discovery due to its multidisciplinary nature, and the growing evidence for environmental contributors to myriad aspects of human health and disease risk. One obstacle to this maximization of the data resources within the environmental health sciences community is the lack of standardization in how the data are annotated and stored.  Numerous language standards have emerged independently to address this issue, but a comprehensive standard continues to be missing, and inconsistencies between standards result in unexplained, contextualized meaning that is a barrier to data sharing and reuse.  A common language for environmental health science would enable consistent classification of data, foster interoperability of databases, and promote the sharing, reuse, and reanalysis of data, thereby accelerating the pace of scientific discovery in environmental health research.

Fields relevant to EHS in need of a common vocabulary include, but are not limited to:

  • Chemical/exposure
  • Exposure source
  • Route of exposure
  • Frequency of exposure
  • Cohort of Study Titles (e.g., CHAMACOS, NHANES)
  • Subjects (e.g., model organisms, human)
  • Attributes (e.g., age, gender, smoker, race)
  • Location/country
  • Biosamples
  • Measurement of exposure/units
  • Phenotype/outcome/disease
  • Genes
  • Biomarkers
  • Study design elements

Information Requested

To maximize the impact of this potentially valuable community resource and facilitate its use by researchers with a broad range of expertise, we seek input on a proposal to develop a common language for Environmental Health Sciences.  Your comments can include but are not limited to the following topics:

  • The  area of expertise and interest in applying/implementing an environmental health common language to your work.
  • The  need for pursuing a unified approach to having an environmental health vocabulary.  Comment can also include   uses for such a tool.
  • The critical barriers or challenges to pursuing a unified approach.
  •  Identification of the  key stakeholders that need to be part of building this unified approach.
  • Possible creation of a framework to advance development of the environmental health vocabulary.
  •  Ability to build off of existing vocabulary resources.  Comments can include the e list the most relevant vocabulary resources.
  • Effectively communicating the value of using a common language to the environmental health research community.
  •  Description of tools/applications that may l be needed to enable researchers to apply appropriate terms to describe their data.
  • Any additional comments that you want considered under this RFI.

Submitting a Response

All responses must be submitted via email to by April 11, 2014.  Please include the Notice number NOT-ES-14-004 in the subject line. Response to this RFI is voluntary. Responders are free to address any or all of the categories listed above. The submitted information will be reviewed by the NIH staff.

This request is for information and planning purposes only and should not be construed as a solicitation or as an obligation on the part of the Federal Government. The NIH does not intend to make any awards based on responses to this RFI or to otherwise pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for the Government's use of such information.

The NIH will use the information submitted in response to this RFI at its discretion and will not provide comments to any responder’s submission. However, responses to the RFI may be reflected in future funding opportunity announcements. The information provided will be analyzed and may appear in reports. Respondents are advised that the Government is under no obligation to acknowledge receipt of the information received or provide feedback to respondents with respect to any information submitted.  No proprietary, classified, confidential, or sensitive information should be included in your response. The Government reserves the right to use any non-proprietary technical information in any resultant solicitation(s).


Please direct all inquiries to:

Lisa Helbling Chadwick, Ph.D.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Telephone: 850-727-7218