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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grants program, focusing on: (1) whether funding amounts awarded for the grants align with EPA's strategic goals, EPA's Office of Research and Development's (ORD) research priorities, and program office priorities; (2) the extent to which the completed focused grants have provided research that is being used by EPA's program offices; and (3) ways in which ORD could enhance its management of the program to help ensure that it meets its objectives.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Environmental Protection Agency To enhance the effectiveness of the STAR program, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Assistant Administrator of ORD to track and monitor the grants to ensure that interim and final research results are delivered on time and are made available as soon as possible for use by the program offices.
Closed - Implemented
In January 2001, EPA reported that it had taken steps to address our recommendation. Specifically, EPA has: (1) developed a system to collect, review, and post abstracts and project reports; (2) established a process to send reminder notes to grantees to assure timely submission of final reports; and (3) sent correspondence to all grantees reaffirming the reporting requirements of a grant and emphasizing the importance of timely submisssion of final reports. Consequently, we are closing this recommendation.
Environmental Protection Agency To enhance the effectiveness of the STAR program, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Assistant Administrator of ORD to develop program criteria to evaluate the effectiveness of each type of grant--exploratory grants, focused grants, and fellowships. In addition, the criteria should assist EPA in drawing an overall conclusion on whether these grants satisfy the program's overall objectives.
Closed - Implemented
EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) has agreed to review the effectiveness of the results of STAR research by individual research area. The SAB is currently conducting an evaluation of the Water and Watersheds research program to establish criteria for reviewing the program. In addition, EPA is negotiating with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to evaluate the STAR program on a broad scale and then by specific issues. NAS has provided an evaluation proposal to EPA and a contract with NAS is expected to be signed by the end of September 2001.
Environmental Protection Agency To enhance the effectiveness of the STAR program, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Assistant Administrator of ORD to take the additional steps needed to better disseminate and communicate STAR research results to the appropriate program officials. This would require continuing and expanding the efforts already under way to consult with program offices in determining the most effective communication methods.
Closed - Implemented
The Assistant Administrator of ORD took additional steps to better disseminate and communicate STAR research results by (1) hiring additional staff to manage and communicate research results, (2) developing state-of-science reports in EPA priority research areas, (3) conducting annual STAR progress reviews in specific research areas, and (4) conducting evaluations of its efforts to communicate research results with program offices and regions.

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