SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
16 April 2015
Volume 16 Issue 4

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Global Horizon Scanning Project: SETAC Needs Your Help to Identify Priority Research Needs

Bryan Brooks ,Baylor University; Gary Ankley, USEPA; Alistair Boxall and Murray Rudd, University of York

The SETAC World Council launched the Global Horizon Scanning Research Prioritization Project (HSP) to identify geographically specific research needs to address stressor impacts on environmental quality. With geographic units in Africa, Asia/Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America, SETAC is uniquely positioned to undertake this novel global activity to identify timely research needs. It is expected that outcomes of this effort will directly support long-range planning of SETAC and other organizations, while providing sound science-based approaches to identify a framework of consensus research priorities of importance to various regions around the world1.  The global steering committee for the HSP project includes an international leadership team: Pedro Carriquiriborde, National University of La Plata; Derek Muir, Environment Canada; Anne Fairbrother, Exponent; Rai Kookana, CSIRO; Lorraine Maltby, University of Sheffield; Keith Solomon, University of Guelph; Shu Tao, Peking University; Paul van den Brink, Wageningen University and Research Centre; and Rudolf Wu, University of Hong Kong.

Scientists and engineers working in various sectors and capacities can submit their research questions through the SETAC HSP project's key questions model. It builds on previous experiences from conservation biology and a recent workshop held by the global SETAC Pharmaceuticals Advisory Group (PAG). Output from this PAG effort initially identified 20 top research questions to better understand risks of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environment2. It has already had an impact. For example, the workshop manuscript from 2012 is highly cited (144 citations according to Google Scholar), and the European Commission’s Innovative Medicines Initiative recently selected one of these questions to support iPiE (Intelligent led assessment of pharmaceuticals in the environment), a multiyear project aimed at prioritizing chemicals for future study. A subsequent manuscript, recently published in Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management3, reports differential rankings of these questions by scientists and engineers from 57 countries. Such results demonstrate the value and impact of global horizon scanning efforts.

We can't accomplish this effort without you, the SETAC membership. We ask you to submit your priority research questions today. Questions should be scientific and engineering in nature, and they can cover any aspect of the fields of environmental toxicology and chemistry (e.g., methods of chemical analysis, chemical fate and transport, different biomes [freshwater, terrestrial or marine], natural and man-made chemicals, chemical or non-chemical interactions, ecological and human health outcomes, affected populations, susceptible ecoregions or resources, prospective and retrospective risk assessment methodologies, and risk management approaches).

An ideal question should do the following:

  • Address important gaps in knowledge
  • Be answerable through a realistic research design
  • Have a factual answer that does not depend on value judgments
  • Cover a spatial and temporal scale that could realistically be addressed by a research team (US$10 million over 5 years)
  • Not be answerable by “it all depends,” “yes” or “no”
  • If related to impact and interventions, should contain a subject, an intervention and a measurable outcome

After HSP questions are submitted, workshops are being held in 2015 and 2016. The first workshop will be held on Wednesday and Thursday during the SETAC Europe 25th Annual Meeting in Barcelona, Spain. Tri-chairs for the SETAC Europe workshop include Joke van Wensem (government), Violaine Verougstraete (business) and Paul van den Brink (academia). Later this year, workshops will be held at the SETAC Australasia meeting in Nelson, New Zealand; the SETAC Latin America 11th Biennial Meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina; the 7th SETAC Africa Conference in Langebaan, South Africa, and at SETAC North America 36th Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Additional workshops are being planned for Asia/Pacific during 2016.

Following each of the HSP workshops, SETAC members and the broader scientific and engineering community will be asked to rank these questions in order of importance. Outcomes from each of the HSP geographic units will be presented during a special symposium at the 7th SETAC World Congress in Orlando, Florida, USA, and then published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry and Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management. SETAC further plans to disseminate these findings to international organizations.

SETAC Needs your Help!

Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Submit priority research questions to your geographic unit. Question submission deadlines are 30 June for SETAC Australasia and SETAC Latin America, 31 July for SETAC Africa and 31 August for SETAC North America
  • Participate in upcoming workshops. Contact leadership of your Geographic Unit to learn more
  • Most importantly, please rank your priority research needs when SETAC contacts you. It will only take a few minutes of your time, and will help SETAC advance its mission of Environmental Quality Through Science®.

Stay tuned to the SETAC Globe for more details as this exiting project progresses!

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