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Title of Law:Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 1995
Law #:Public Law 103-327
Passed by Congress:103rd Congress (2nd Session)

The following are excerpts, highlighted in red, from the final legislation and/or conference report which contain National Academies’ studies. (Pound signs [##] between passages denote the deletion of unrelated text.)

HRpt 103-715 CONFERENCE REPORT To accompany H.R. 4624 -- Making Appropriations for the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and for sundry independent agencies, boards, commissions, corporations, and offices for the fiscal year ending September 30, 1995, and for other purposes.
(09/01/94)

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CONFERENCE REPORT

[To accompany H.R. 4624]

The committee of conference on the disagreeing votes of the two Houses on the amendments of the Senate to the bill (H.R. 4624) "making appropriations for the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and for sundry independent agencies, boards, commissions, corporations, and offices for the fiscal year ending September 30, 1995, and for other purposes," having met, after full and free conference, have agreed to recommend and do recommend to their respective Houses as follows:

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//RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT \\

// For research and development activities, including procurement of laboratory equipment and supplies; other operating expenses in support of research and development; and construction, alteration, repair, rehabilitation and renovation of facilities, not to exceed $75,000 per project, $350,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 1996: Provided, That not more than $55,000,000 of these funds shall be available for procurement of laboratory equipment, supplies, and other operating expenses in support of research and development. \\

The managers on the part of the Senate will move to concur in the amendment of the House to the amendment of the Senate.

This amendment restores the research and development account to its current structure.

The conferees are in agreement to the following changes to the budget request:

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The committee of conference is in agreement that credible science is an essential cornerstone to the mission at EPA. The conferees recognize the efforts of the Agency to improve upon its science and its efforts in implementing a more stringent peer-review system. Because the Agency needs to improve upon its current peer review process, the conferees believe that several entities should work together in providing guidance and consultation to the EPA in the development of its peer-review system. The Agency should work with the National Research Council as described in Senate Report 103-311 and the Carnegie Commission in the merit-review process. Further, the EPA is expected to work closely with the appropriate Congressional authorizing and oversight committees. In addition to providing guidance on the development of a merit-based, competitive process, these various entities should provide their expertise and make recommendations concerning the various categories of research at the Agency as well. Finally, it is the intent of the conferees that all research at the Agency, including that conducted in the program offices, be included when developing the research categories and assessing the quality of the research at the Agency. In addition to the reports already requested in the House and Senate reports, the Agency is to provide quarterly status reports on the improvements made to EPA's research.

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SRpt 103-311 SENATE REPORT To accompany H.R. 4624 -- Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Bill, 1995
Senate Appropriations
(07/14/94)
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R E P O R T

[To accompany H.R. 4624]

The Committee on Appropriations to which was referred the bill (H.R. 4624) making appropriations for the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and for sundry independent agencies, boards, commissions, corporations, and offices for the fiscal year ending September 30, 1995, and for other purposes, reports the same to the Senate with amendments and recommends that the bill as amended do pass.

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COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION

The Committee has provided $350,000,000 for research and development, an increase of $11,299,000 above the enacted budget and $13,860,000 below the budget request. The House provided for research and development activities in a new account entitled "Research, prevention, and program activities."

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The Committee continues to be very concerned with peer review at EPA. The agency has not implemented a consistent peer review policy for work products. In addition, very little of EPA's research work is competed through a peer review process such as that used by the National Science Foundation. EPA science is used as the basis for rulemakings and policy formulation. If EPA is to make the most appropriate decisions, it must have credible science. Therefore, it is critical that the science be conducted in a manner recognized by the scientific community as being unbiased and of the highest quality.

The Committee recognizes that EPA has begun to take important steps to improve its research and its use of peer review. A comprehensive review of EPA's research program and laboratory structure was recently conducted. The Committee is highly supportive of recommendations made in this review, such as relying more heavily on the academic research community, reducing reliance on site contractors, and initiating a more competitive selection process of both intramural and extramural research.

In particular, the Committee supports the steering committee's recommendation to allocate $100,000,000 annually for competitive, merit reviewed grants to academic, and not-for-profit research institutions to support fundamental research.

While the Committee appreciates the fact that EPA has been taking steps to strengthen its research and development activity, the Committee continues to remain concerned about the quality of the science conducted and supported by EPA. The Committee believes that EPA's research programs would benefit if merit review was made an integral part of the research process at EPA.

The National Science Foundation has extensive experience in establishing and managing merit-based review processes for fundamental science and engineering. NSF also works closely with the academic community. The Committee directs EPA to enter into a partnership with NSF in order to utilize the expertise of the NSF in reviewing fundamental research proposals. NSF is to apply its peer review process to one-half of EPA's resources for its fundamental, extramural research programs--which total approximately $100,000,000--as a way to utilize an established and widely respected merit-based review process. NSF is not to utilize any EPA funds for administrative costs related to the review; all funds are

to be used for the designated EPA activities. NSF's role is to apply its merit-based review process to the EPA research and to act as a mentor to EPA on peer review protocol. EPA and NSF are to provide a progress report on this joint effort within 90 days of enactment of this act.

The Committee notes that several reports related to EPA have been issued by the National Research Council. Based upon this, the Committee directs EPA to enter into an interagency agreement with the NRC for an assessment of several aspects of its R&D activities. First, the NRC should undertake an assessment of the various research categories identified in the Office of Research and Development's February 1993 report (Report to Congress: Fundamental and Applied Research at the Environmental Protection Agency). The NRC should determine if these are the most appropriate categories, develop appropriate sets of criteria for each category of research, and provide EPA guidance and assistance (along with NSF) in establishing a merit-based, competitive review process of all its R&D activities. Furthermore, the NRC should establish a process to comparatively assess the quality of the environmental research output between the NSF/EPA partnership merit-based system and that previously awarded by EPA, and recommend whether NSF involvement should continue. The NRC should assess the ratio between intramural and extramural R&D at EPA and recommend the appropriate balance between the two.

In addition, the NRC should recommend mechanisms that would ensure external review of EPA's intramural laboratories on 3-year cycles. Intramural programs should not be reviewed by investigators who are collaborators or who are affiliated with the programs being reviewed, nor should they be reviewed by EPA grantees who are personally involved with the projects or programs.

Finally, the NRC should determine how the EPA should administer its entire range of research programs; the NRC also should recommend how program officers are evaluated based upon the quality and effectiveness of the research programs they oversee.

The Committee directs NRC to provide a preliminary report to the Committee by March 1, 1995. Until this report is received, no more than 25 percent of the funds provided to ORD, with the exception of congressionally directed activities, shall be obligated until the Administrator certifies to the Committee that implementation of NRC recommendations have begun.

The Committee is generally supportive of the agency's national environmental goals project to set environmental priorities. However, the Committee is concerned that the goals are not being developed based on comparative risk analysis. The Committee recognizes that comparative risk methodology needs development and has not been a high priority for the Agency. The Committee believes EPA should fund research and development to improve comparative risk analysis, and directs the Agency to provide a report within 60 days of enactment of this act on its plans for this research, and how it will use comparative risk analysis as part of the national environmental goals project.

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