SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
7 September 2017
Volume 18 Issue 9

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Advancing Environmental Science at SETAC

Tamar Schlekat, SETAC Scientific Affairs Manager; Roel Evens, SETAC Europe Science Manager; and Mary Reiley and Annegaaike Leopold, Co-Chairs of the Global Horizon Scanning Project Marketing and Outreach Steering Committee

SETAC has long undertaken various exercises to identify emerging topics and scientific issues in order to meet the society’s objectives of achieving Environmental Quality Through Science®. SETAC science topic prioritization efforts have relied on information received from formal surveys or ad hoc brainstorming sessions conducted by SETAC’s governing bodies, committees and Interest Groups. The SETAC Science Committees at the global and geographic unit (North America and Europe) levels periodically and consistently carry out these types of initiatives. The intent of this article is to put some of the results in front of members to encourage support of priority topics.

Recently, SETAC conducted a formal global prioritization effort – the Global Horizon Scanning Project (GHSP). Horizon scanning is widely used as a systematic process for information gathering and analyzing or prioritizing with the goal of identifying emerging issues and developing potential opportunities to address these issues. By conducting the GHSP, SETAC members have ensured that SETAC science prioritization in not left behind.  

The SETAC GHSP was launched in September 2013. The project’s goal was to identify geographically specific research needs to address stressor impacts on environmental quality. The GHSP facilitated workshop on five continents where scientists working in various sectors and capacities submitted research questions towards “advancing our understanding of adverse impacts of stressors (e.g., chemical, physical, biological) on environmental sustainability.”  SETAC membership at large were also invited to submit research questions starting in December 2013 through the summer of 2015.  Finally, in November 2016 the results of the GHSP were revealed in a dedicated session at the SETAC World Congress in Orlando. The recording of the entire session, “2016 - Toward Sustainable Environmental Quality: Identifying Global Research Needs through the SETAC Horizon Scanning Project” is now available online for the benefit of our membership. More GHSP results were revealed at the SETAC Europe Horizon Scanning Project Stakeholder event at the SETAC Europe 27th Annual Meeting in May in Brussels. The presentations from that event are available on the GHSP Results website.

Outside SETAC, the results of the GHSP are being disseminated to stakeholders (i.e., science funding entities) by the GHSP Marketing and Outreach Committee. The committee is planning events at the geographic unit level to spread the results in ways best suited to that particular region. The first such event was conducted during the SETAC Europe annual meeting in Brussel. A summary of the SETAC Europe Horizon Scanning Stakeholder Discussion was recently published in the Globe. Immediately after the meeting in Europe, a stakeholder meeting was held on 13 May in Guangzhou, China. Next, the committee is planning a round table discussion with stakeholder during the SETAC Latin America meeting in September and developing other stakeholder events for North America and Africa. While SETAC has no current plans for another horizon scanning project at the global scale, we expect that the results of the effort we already undertook are and will continue to produce many ideas from our membership towards advancing the science as well as to garner support from outside stakeholders for research funding.

Meanwhile, various science committees have continued conducting topic prioritization exercises dedicated to their geographic unit. The most recently identified priority topics in Europe are extrapolation across biological levels, multi-compartment higher-tier testing in ecological risk assessment, the role of “big data” and spatially explicit considerations in ensuring safe use of chemical products, and the use of exposure models in estimating environmental exposure to chemicals used by different industry sectors. The SETAC Europe Technical Workshop “Risk Assessment of Plant Protection Products in Terrestrial Environment” is being planned to address some of those issues. Priority topics identified by the SETAC North America Science Committee in 2016 are linking science and social issues, nanoparticles and their effect on the environment, and water quality and management. The SETAC North America technical workshop on water quality this December is supported due to these priorities. Meanwhile, SETAC Africa has prioritized the topic of management and mitigation of mining risks, and plans are underway for a symposium on the topic in 2018.

SETAC is committed to continually fostering the process of science topic prioritization. Please consider providing input on science prioritization through science committees and interest group steering committees.

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