Save Environmental Health Perspectives
1:39 pm US Eastern Time
1. Call Moderator: Steve Heilig, MPH, Director of Public Health and Education, San Francisco Medical Society and Collaborative on Health and the Environment
Even though this is a slightly unusual call for us, we are going to start with our usual science update with Dr. Pete Myers, who scans the world literature for the latest news and science. We’ve asked him to pick out some things particularly noteworthy, and give us a brief update. So, Pete?
2. Science Update: Pete Myers, PhD, CEO, Environmental Health Sciences
Great. Thank you very much, Steve. Given that the bulk of the call is about Environmental Health Perspectives, I thought it would only be appropriate to choose a newly published piece of research from that journal. Some of you will have noted that within the last 10 days, a paper from Spain by Alonzo Magdalena et al, out of Angel Nadal's laboratory, was published. It looked at the effects of chronic, low-level exposure to Bisphenol A in adult mice. They report an extremely intriguing result. Low-level exposure to Bisphenol A causes insulin resistance in adult mice.
They administered 10 mcg per kg in one of the treatments, and found that induced a very rapid rise in blood insulin levels within about 30 minutes, compared to controls. They also looked at longer-term exposure over 4 days, to 100 mcg per kg. That increases insulin production, causes insulin resistance, and impaired glucose tolerance.
Most recently, there’s been a flood of papers showing low-level impacts of Bisphenol A on rodents. There have been very few human studies that would link those rodent studies to the health effects of people. But it’s noteworthy that the exposures used in the experiments by Alonzo Magdalena et al, are within the range experienced by many people in developing worlds.
This paper expands the domain of possible Bisphenol A impacts squarely into metabolic syndrome. A collection of human disorders, that includes insulin resistance, Type 2 Diabetes, obesity and hypertension. Also noteworthy is the fact that the experiments were with adults instead of on fetal development – which has been the main focus of work with Bisphenol A.
Of course, that immediately raises the question of what would happen, at what exposure levels, were a similar set of experiments done on fetal development. This is an exciting new paper. It’s appearing in Environmental Health Perspectives. It’s typical of the high quality of the papers published in that journal. It’s also typical of the fact that it presents a whole series of experiments on this issue, instead of isolated experiments, one-by-one, so that you can get a flavor for the entire research program. This is very difficult to do in journals like Nature, Science or Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. EHP has proved very valuable, because it provides more space for fuller presentation of research results. I encourage you all to read this, it’s available on the EHP website at: http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/docs/2005/113-10/toc.html. It’s a really important paper. We will also be putting up a synopsis of it in the next few days on Our Stolen Future, at: http://www.ourstolenfuture.org/ and also via the Environmental Health News, at: http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/.
3. Introduction: Steve Heilig
Thank you very much, Pete. We are going to talk about the journal that Dr. Myers was just referencing. When we first heard and saw the federal register Request for Information (RFI) on this, we had a bit of discussion about whether this would be appropriate for a CHE call. We heard from quite a few CHE Partners, that they thought this was, in fact, important. I think that’s borne out by the fact that we have – I believe – over 80 people on this call, today.
Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) can be accessed online at: http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/. I’m simply going to read the mission statement of the journal, from the EHP website.
“The mission of EHP – the Journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) – is to serve as a forum for the discussion of the inter-relationships between the environment and human health, by publishing in a balanced and objective manner, the best peer-reviewed research and most current and credible news of the field.”
That states it ably, right there. The journal, of course, is very popular. It has over 35,000 subscribers. It’s read in over 190 countries. If you look at the site, you’ll see there’s even a Chinese edition, now. It is an open-access journal, which is important nowadays, as well.
We are very pleased to see that the speakers on today were very willing – and in fact, eager – to come out and join us and talk about this. We’ll start with the editor-in-chief of the journal, Dr. Thomas Goehl. Dr. Goehl, would you please give us your thoughts?
4. First Speaker: Thomas J. Goehl, PhD, Editor-in-Chief, Environmental Health Perspectives
Yes. I do appreciate the opportunity to talk about the journal, especially in regard to the possible phasing out of the NIEHS sponsorship. For some background, at the EHP editorial meeting in May – actually, before Dr. Schwartz officially took over as director of NIEHS – he told the board he was very supportive of the journal. He was praising its progress and its extensive national and international programs. He also pledged respect to required editorial independence. That is necessary to maintaining the integrity of EHP. He has done this.
Over the following months, however, as Dr. Schwartz looked for ways to reduce NIEHS cost, he floated the idea of withdrawing the sponsorship of EHP. Later on, you will hear from Dr. Allen Dearry, who is the associate director at NIEHS. Because Allen Dearry was directly involved in the discussions concerning the issuance and request for information, he is in a much better position than I to address that with you.
However, I would like to give you a better idea of EHP’s characteristics, and the journal’s extensive national and international programs. I think this is important, because it might help you understand why simply finding another publisher is not a straightforward issue. In other words, EHP does more than just publish a highly respected scholarly research journal. The breadth and complexity of EHP makes it difficult to simply seek a private-sector publisher.
I would like to just tell you about what constitutes EHP. Obviously, the core of the journal is the highly respected research section. The current-impact factor of 3.93 places the journal second among 132 environmental science journals, and fifth among 90 public environmental and occupational health journals. In fact, if we were ranked in the general medical journals, we’d be ranked Number 10.
Might I add that based on the immediacy index calculated for the journal, I’m projecting… I’ve been wrong before, but I’m projecting an impact factor next year close to five. Over the last four years, the number of manuscripts submitted to EHP has doubled. We’re now getting about 1,200. The rejection rate is about 80 percent.
EHP also has an equally highly regarded news section. This contains articles written by investigative freelance writers, and edited by EHP staff. We aim for balance and objectivity in the news articles, and I hope everyone would agree that we hopefully actually achieve that. There are a few journals that have such a high-quality news section.
Another feature of the journal, which makes it different, is that we are a true open-access journal. That is that the articles are immediately and freely available on the journal’s website, within 24 hours after acceptance. Very few journals can say that they have that rapidity of publication. We even have an open-access policy for the news articles.
So what’s another aspect that makes EHP different? Another part is that we have a very broad range of global health initiatives. They span four continents. These include providing complementary print copies of EHP to developing countries. Again, there are very few journals that can afford to do that. Being an NIEHS journal has made that possible. Secondly, we have translations of the summaries of all articles into Chinese, French, Japanese, Russian and Spanish. Third, we have a capacity-building effort in Africa that we work with the National Library of Medicine, the Fogarty International Center, the American Journal of Public Health, the British Medical Journal, Journal of the American Medical Association and the Lancet. We also are hosting the website for an African journal, the Maui Medical. Fifth, we’re publishing a quarterly Chinese-language edition. This is in partnership with the Shanghai CDC. We also are partnering with a Chinese journal, the Journal of Environmental Occupational Medicine, to co-publish research articles. We partner with a Chilean Journal – CNCA Trabajo – to publish an EHP news section within their journal. Eighth, we have an agreement with a Mexican journal, Salud Publica de Mexico, to publish an EHP news section in their journal. They are also interested in publishing a Spanish language version of the EHP student edition. I’ll mention that briefly, shortly. Ninth, we’re reaching an agreement with the Brazilian journal, CNC Soud Caledipha, to republish EHP review articles in their journal.
I believe that the EHP Global Health Initiative really plays an important role in what NIEHS is developing, under Dr. Schwartz, in the area of global health.
The third major activity EHP has that makes it difficult to simply find another publisher is that over the years, EHP and EHP supplements have been very actively used in the university classrooms, as a training tool. That’s still the case. However, we have recently this past year begun to have a high school classroom edition. The first year of that program, we provided complementary monthly print copies to 60 high school teachers, and made the student edition available on our website, to any teacher in the world.
We also have provided teacher lesson plans, each month. Because of the great success of the program, we’re considering expanding it. We have also been in discussion with the Harvard Medical School, concerning EHP environmental medicine articles being used in a continuing medical education program.
Now, the cost: this is something which will cover all of the EHP and EHP special issues, Chinese-language edition, student edition, as well as all these informational and capacity-building programs around the world. This does carry a price tag. Because the RFP might be issued, based upon the responses to the requests for information, I don’t feel it’s appropriate to give you a cost-per-activity. However, I think it’s appropriate to give you a bottom-line budget.
During this current fiscal year, we estimate our annual budget covering publication of EHP and supporting all EHP educational and global health initiatives, to be about $3.3 million – which is about 45/100 of 1 percent, 0.45 percent of the NIEHS budget. We have brought the budget down from a high of about $3.9 million over the last four years, and have ideas to significantly reduce those costs further in the next couple of years. This reduction has come at a time when we have gone to an open-access journal. We’ve increased our international presence, and ramped up our educational activities.
I just wanted to conclude in the formal statement, to let you know that I am confident that the vital work of EHP can be continued, while enabling the NIEHS to evolve with Dr. Schwartz’s vision for communication and training of the next-generation of environmental health scientists.
I think NIEHS benefits tremendously from publishing such a highly visible and respected journal. And EHP benefits from being sponsored by such a prestigious institution. I think the field of environmental health is best served by maintaining the journal ties to the NIEHS. That’s certainly a personal opinion. I believe that the best way to maintain the vital work of EHP and its programs is to find a partner – maybe two partners – to share the economic burden with NIEHS, to maintain this critical journal and all the journal’s national and international programs. I appreciate the chance to speak, and I will be anxious to hear some comments, later on.
Steve Heilig: Dr. Goehl, thank you very much for those excellent remarks. Now, Dr. Allen Dearry, as mentioned, your office oversees publication of the journal. You’re also a CHE Partner, and have spoken at some of our conferences. Do you have a few brief comments, as well?
5. Second Speaker: Allen Dearry, PhD, Director, Division of Research Coordination, Planning, and Translation, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Tom has given everyone a good background on EHP. Let me just say upfront that I think all of us here at NIEHS do have an enormous amount of respect for the journal. Especially in the past five to 10 years, as Tom has indicated, it really has become even more successful than it was, previously. I think it does offer significant value to the Institute.
At this point, we’re engaged in trying to assess all of the types of activities that the Institute conducts. It’s part of a normal, ongoing evaluation that we conduct on all of our research training and communication programs. This is not anything really outside the scope of what we’ve done previously. We’ve even had similar discussions about whether or not to privatize EHP, previously.
We have not reached any final decision about potential privatization of EHP. At this point, we’re engaged in an information-gathering effort, to try to see if there might be some private sector entity that would be interested in publishing EHP. If so, what would be the parameters to enable that to continue, to support a successful journal of the nature that Tom has described.
We do intend to try to maintain and really enhance the capacity of EHP to be a resource for researchers, for providers, for patients and for the general public. We would similarly like to enhance EHP’s credibility, its accessibility and its value, to both the scientific and lay communities.
At this point, we’re really trying to “test the waters,” to see if there’s any interest in the private sector realm in publishing the journal – and making it more than it is, even now. That’s really our thinking, at this point. There have been no decisions made about whether or not EHP would be privatized. It’s really an ongoing information-gathering campaign, to look at whether or not it would be useful for the journal, as well as for the institute to go down that road. I’ll stop there and I’ll be glad to answer questions, later on.
Steve Heilig: Thank you very much, Allen. Dr. Lucier, you are on in time, here. We are glad to have you as a founding editor and for 28 years, a co-editor of the journal. Now retired, and still a consultant to Environmental Defense and to the NIEHS. Do you have a few remarks for us?
6. Third Speaker: George Lucier, PhD, Founding Editor of Environmental Health Perspectives, Former Associate Director of the National Toxicology Program
Clearly, EHP has gone from a journal that just published conference proceedings, to now being arguably the world’s leading environmental health journal, over the period of the 33 years that I’ve been associated with it. Under NIEHS sponsorship, EHP has made immense contributions to environmental health. Clearly, it’s brought honor and distinction to the NIEHS by playing a critical role in communicating environmental health information in a balanced objective in an understandable way, to policymakers, scientists and the general public, as well as developing countries.
If NIEHS withdraws sponsorship, there’s little doubt that several important components of EHP will be lost, and the field of environmental health will suffer because of it. But what are the sections of EHP, and how will the privatization proposal affect them?
Clearly, the research articles are an essential component of any journal, and EHP is no different. Here, it’s a blend of basic science, environmental medicine, and risk-assessment, articles that deal with common ground between ecological health and human health – as well as a section on children’s health and other areas, as well.
A private outfit would likely not support such a wide scope of articles, aimed at the integration of environmental health disciplines. This integration is important to sound decision-making, and it is unlikely that other journals would pick up the slack.
The news section – these articles are written in an understandable way, and they communicate scientific information, critical controversies of the day, and policies in a balanced, objective manner. The news section is used by policy-makers, scientists and the general public. It is doubtful that a private group could maintain the news section, because its purpose is not to make money, but rather to provide a needed public health service.
The student edition – this edition is designed to educate young people on environmental health issues. It fills an extraordinarily important need, and it has been well received by teachers at all levels. However, this is not profitable, and it’s unlikely that a private outfit would sustain it.
Global programs – EHP has effectively reached all corners of the world. It’s published in multiple languages – including Chinese and Spanish. We all know that environmental health problems are global problems. EHP does what no other journal does. It reaches out to all people who are impacted by environmental problems, and who desperately need reliable information. This, too, is not profitable, and many global initiatives would be lost if EHP withdraws its funding.
Why withdraw NIEHS funds now? Here are some facts to consider. By all measures, the impact of EHP has federally increased year-after-year, until it now stands at the forefront of environmental health journals. Two, the number of articles submitted to EHP has doubled in the last five years. Three, the rejection rate is 80 percent, so quality has also increased. EHP now publishes articles within 24 hours after acceptance. As I mentioned before, it is now published in five languages, and the number of partnerships has steadily increased. With this record of accomplishment and recognition, one would expect that the NIEHS cost of producing EHP would skyrocket. But the opposite is true. The budget of EHP is about 15 percent smaller than it was three or four years ago.
Here’s the situation. The scientific quality is up. Impact is up. Recognition is up. Public health service is up. Efficiency is up and the costs are down. As they say, “If it’s not broke, why fix it?” One must question the wisdom of withdrawing funds for EHP, when the outcome of such an action will likely be the production of a journal of lesser quality and lesser public health impact.
I recommend that NIEHS retain sponsorship of EHP, and at the same time, continue to look for ways to further cut costs, without cutting quality and impact. I’ll certainly be glad to answer questions as well, at the end of the formal presentation.
Steve Heilig: Thank you very much for joining us, Dr. Lucier.
Steve Heilig: One of the CHE Partners who expressed particular interest in this was Dr. Tracey Woodruff, who is with the National Center for Environmental Economics, at the US Environmental Protection Agency. We invited her to make some comments, as well. So, Dr. Woodruff?
Tracey Woodruff, PhD, MPH, Public Health and Environmental Policy Team, National Center for Environmental Economics, US Environmental Protection Agency:
Thank you for inviting me to comment. I think the presentations have covered a lot of the really key issues about EHP. I think it’s very important to hear about these uses of EHP, especially now, as people are considering the response to the questions and the requests for information.
I think some of the key things that have been covered look at the broad range of topics, accessibility, innovation and credibility. I just wanted to add a few other things from my perspective, both looking at the agency, and then as a scientist who publishes in EHP.
Clearly, it covers a broad range of environmental health and science issues. That makes it very unique, because a lot of times, at least from the policy perspectives, when we’re thinking about things, you can go to that source and get a broad range of information. Unlike a lot of the other science journals, which are very discipline-focused, like epidemiology or toxicology.
I think that EHP has become very important. People have talked about the science and the credibility of that, but it’s also become very important, in terms of underpinning a lot of policy and decision-making. For example, EHP has published over the last couple of years a lot of important issues related to children’s environmental health. A lot of those have been fed into – for example – the new supplemental guides that EPA’s put out, looking at specifically addressing risks to children. I think it’s been very influential, in terms of things that have been happening. At least from a national perspective, in underpinning a lot of decisions and policy that’s going on.
I think from a science perspective, when someone is considering about where to send an article to the journal – if someone wants to have an article that has both a very high level of scientific rigor, but also be read by a wide range of audiences – both lay audiences as well as policy audiences – this would be the very number one journal of choice, in my opinion, as I’m sure a lot of people that I work with. You would publish in Environmental Health Perspectives if you want a lot of people from different arenas to see an article.
I think that sort of goes hand-in-hand with its accessibility. Because it’s accessible to so many different people, it crosses a broad array of people who can go and get the articles right as they’re coming out, and they can be very timely and useful to people. Unlike a lot of other journals that are for-profit, who must rely on charging money to access their articles.
Then I wanted to add a little bit to the thoughts that were talked about EHP as a credible and unbiased source of information. I don’t know if people are aware that EHP has a conflict-of-interest policy. A lot of journals have a conflict-of-interest policy. But I believe, that EHP has one of the strictest among the journals. I think that raises the level of confidence that people have in the journal.
As my own personal perspective, I can’t say enough about how forward thinking and innovative I think that EHP is. I think that as people have talked about it, it’s been constantly evolved. It’s constantly adding new things. The things that Tom described about all the international arenas – the EHP in press section, which is relatively new. They’ve added a children’s health edition. It’s just a journal that I think we look to as a very forward-thinking place for information on environmental health. Having a reliable source of funding really allows the journal to focus on thinking of new ways to make the information more accessible, raise the credibility, and just enhance the usefulness of the journal. It allows them some freedom, to really focus on the content.
I just wanted to make one other comment about the budget. I know this was mentioned in the release of the information. But it strikes me that it’s only 0.05 percent of the NIEHS budget. Yet the journal has a much higher return on this money, in terms of the impact it has on general public health. Certainly, NIEHS is investing in monetary terms. I think that’s an important consideration, for the journal as a whole.
I know that I look forward to getting my EHP Journal every month. I just hope that it continues to stay the same high-level quality that it is now.
Steve Heilig: Thank you very much Tracey. There are a couple of people who expressed an interest in commenting. Michael Lerner, I believe you might have wanted to make a comment?
Michael Lerner, PhD, President, Commonweal:
First of all, I’d just like to say what excellent, balanced presentations we started with. To make a point, CHE does not take positions on any issues. We did feel that this was an issue of such supreme importance to the entire CHE Partnership, that we wanted to let people know about the opportunity of comment – one way or the other – on the views of this.
I have to say, I found the presentation about the reasons for NIEHS to continue to publish the journal very persuasive. I want to ask whether the other presenters from NIEHS had any comment that they wanted to make on, what seemed to me, the power of the position that the journal continues to be more and more important in the field. That the costs are going down. And from a sort of point-of-view of the wellbeing of the field, it would seem quite reasonable to move toward continuing this flagship journal and continuing to seek both partners and efficiencies that would enable this very vital publication to reach its full potential. I just wondered whether the presenters from NIEHS had any reflections on that perspective.
Tom Goehl: My style is to try to bring in as many partners as possible. This is a very broad field, so have as many partners as we can participate, just helps everyone. What I’m specifically thinking about is the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH), out of the CDC. I think that’s a very useful potential partner for the journal. Again, what we do would fit well into their profile. I have contacted Howie Frumkin – the new director of the NCEH – to discuss that. I think also dealing with the National Center for Children’s Health is certainly an appropriate one.
I think keeping the journal with a focus on its primarily sponsorship being the Institute is really in everyone’s interest. Because we can maintain, as has been pointed out, a lot of these programs that no one in a sector can do. I’m not saying to exclude private sector. Bring them in, or bring in additional societies. We work very strongly with the International Society of Environmental Epidemiology. I say bring them in. But I still feel and have argued that it is in the best interest of everyone that NIEHS continue to take the lead.
Allen Dearry: Most scientific journals are not published by government agencies. They’re published by scientific or professional societies, by universities or by private-sector publishers. NIEHS is the only institute within the National Institutes of Health that support ventures of this magnitude. With all due respect to both Tom and George, I would not agree with the assumption that items such as the news section or the student edition are not supportable by the private sector. In fact, those may actually be some of the most valuable -- if you look at it strictly in economic terms – portions of the journal. There’s a lot of interest from the private sector, in both news and education. I suspect those would have large appeal to outside publishing firms.
I think one other way to look at this is – again – not that NIEHS wants to do anything to lesser the quality or the impact of the journal – but we’re actually trying to grow its capacity to be a resource. I think there are even some points to consider about NIEHS support being limiting, in terms of the potential growth of the journal. There are a lot more innovative means to publish journals in the private sector than there are within the federal government.
Timothy Lambert, PhD, MSc, Manager, Environmental Health Risk Assessment and Management, Calgary Health Region, Environmental Health:
I was wondering about partnering up with Canada. We just created a new public health government agency, which might be interested in promoting this kind of research, and perhaps partnering in that.
Tom Goehl: Yes, we have multiple partners throughout the world. We partner with the Shanghai CDC in publishing the Chinese edition. So I would love to have further discussions with you on what ideas you might have for a partnership.
Steve Heilig: Do those other partners share in the costs of the journal?
Tom Goehl: We started with a different partner in China, in publishing the journal. When we started negotiations with the Shanghai CDC, we agreed on a maximum amount of money that we would pay for the publication of the journal. That brought down our original costs with the first partner – by about 15-20 percent. The subsequent cost to the Institute – the plan is for that number to decrease over the course of the years. So there are different ways. We work with developing countries, of course, and other developing countries in different ways. We actually provide them resources and help them technically in their own activities, to build their journals.
Lin Kaatz Chary, MPH, PhD: I think the supplements are an extremely important aspect of the journal. I really would like to hear some comment on what you think the probability would be that they would stay intact. Of even more concern to me is whether they would continue to be accessible, because they’re – I would assume – a fairly additional expense to the publication of the journal. Yet, they’re really a critical piece of it. I really am concerned whether those would still be as widely accessible as they are.
Tom Goehl: We discontinued the formal supplements series a few years ago. What we currently publish are mini-monographs. These are part of the actual monthly issues. We would certainly intend to continue those. Also, however, we would do an occasional special issue – which would take the form of a supplement, in the older sense of the term. Whether or not a private sector publisher could afford to continue to do that, I don’t know. But I think the mini-monograph series, which are approximately four to six research articles published on one topic, within the monthly journal – that is something I think that a private publisher would continue to do, because it’s extremely valuable, and it’s gone over very well in the environmental health community.
Pete Myers: I have a very practical question. On the website, where it specifies how to comment, where you click produces different results. One place, you get a form. In another place, you get e-mail. I want to make sure that people who want to comment are doing the right thing. Which one of those comment routes should people be using, to make sure their comments are read and inserted into the process?
Allen Dearry: The website is actually the preferred route – simply because it would be easiest for us to collate all of those responses. But we will also be paying just as much attention to all the responses that come in through the e-mail, as well. Either one is workable.
Steve Heilig: Could you tell us what the process will be? I understand that the timeline on this is the end of October. Then, what will you be doing with them, logistically?
Allen Dearry: Yes, the deadline is October 28th. Then we will probably take a month to go through all of those – organize them and abstract as much information from them as we can. We would hope to be able to make a decision in December or January.
George Lucier: Would those comments, or a synopsis of those comments be publicly available?
Allen Dearry: My understanding so far is that they are available through a Freedom of Information Act request. We’re having some discussion about whether or not attributes would be associated with comments, meaning name, address, and that sort of thing.
George Lucier: Why make it a requirement through Freedom of Information? Why not just make them available to anyone who wants them? I mean that’s what we do with the NTT public comments, when we do those.
Allen Dearry: Because we did not state that up front, that everybody’s comments would be broadcast to the world. I’m not sure that everybody would want his or her individual comments to be so disseminated.
Michael Lerner: This is a challenging question, but I’m sure it’s in the background, for a number of us. I want to ask it in the CHE tradition, of constructive-positive dialogue. I’m sure there are those who simply wonder whether the only reason that NIEHS is contemplating this, of all the areas where one could try to save money, as a cost-saving matter. Or whether you have heard from constituencies that are not the foremost champions of environmental health – who don’t believe that the government should be in the business of publishing a periodical that does so much to strengthen that particular constituency. Again, I do not ask this as a question that’s critical of any individual. But surely, this comes up in the background, for many on this call – and I’m sure for others. I wonder whether any of you would like to address that concern.
Allen Dearry: I would say that from my perspective, at least, there is no outside driving force or influence that’s setting forward this as an agenda for the institute. It really arises from the leadership of the institute, on a broad scale, to be able to view all of the programs that we support. Whether they’re research or communication. Some of you are probably aware, and Dr. Schwartz talked on one of these calls a couple of months ago, that we also have a strategic planning process ongoing. That’s designed to help us gather information that charts the future course. This is just a similar enquiry, in terms of what are the best communication channels for the institute. EHP is one of those. I don’t think there’s any sort of larger purpose or hidden agenda driving this.
Michael Lerner: Just a follow-up to that. When you ask whether EHP is an effective mode of communication, given the extraordinary description from Allen and others, of how powerful this vehicle is – and I understand it costs 44/100 of one percent of the NIEHS budget. Could you cite some examples of other communications modalities that you regard as more cost-effective? Any that would be preferred to Environmental Health Perspectives as a more-effective way of communicating?
Allen Dearry: I don’t know that we have other channels, at this point, that would be as effective. I can tell you that in part of this evaluation of what we’re doing, in terms of communications - we’re also looking at our website. I personally would say it’s not everything it should be. There are at least some plans underway to try to totally renovate that website, and make it a much more effective means of communication for the institute, as a whole.
Steve Heilig: I was going to make explicit here, the disclaimer on the website. The journal does specify it. I think it’s just important to know. I think people know and it states very clearly that the conclusions and opinions of authors are not those of NIEHS. The great value here has been the open-forum that the journal provides.
Jeanne Rizzo, RN, Executive Director, Breast Cancer Fund:
Has there been any consideration of trying to find additional specific funding for this, through the legislative process? Has that even been considered?
Tom Goehl: I’m not aware of that, at all. Any of my efforts have always been looking for partners throughout the environmental health community.
Jeanne Rizzo: So is that something that you all at your end are open to?
Tom Goehl: Anything, I think, that would keep the EHP in its current sponsorship mode, I would definitely be for. But it’s not an area that I have any impact in. Perhaps Allen can address that.
Allen Dearry: Personally, I would say that if that’s your interest, those of us who are federal employees should hang up. Then the rest of you can talk about it. The Institute has a normal appropriation that covers both research, as well as communications. That’s what supports EHP.
Jeanne Rizzo: Right. We’ve fought for that in the past. We’ve worked on appropriations for you all in the past. It seems that if there’s a struggle going on now for adequate funding to sustain this effort, then maybe that’s something that we all can put our heads together on, and use this as an opportunity, or a leverage point, to try to get you some additional funding. I would assume you’d welcome that.
Allen Dearry: We always welcome all the support we can get.
Mary Lamielle, Executive Director, National Center for Environmental Health Strategies:
I was just wondering – the comment about taking a broad look at activities, and so forth. Is this the first time that EHP has been reviewed in that kind of context?
George Lucier: We’ve actually done this a couple of times in the past, during the many years that I was associated with the journal. We’ve actually sought out private publishers and talked with them about it. The conclusion at both of those times was that it would cost more money to do it privately, at the level that we’re operating at, than it would by doing it with the government. This was done two times in the past. The last time, I believe, was in the early 1990s.
Barbara McElgunn, RN, Health Policy Advisor, Learning Disabilities Association of Canada:
I was just thinking that this is a cornerstone of NIEHS – this journal. It gives NIEHS international visibility around the world, as many people have mentioned. It has a tremendous value. I’d really like, personally, to see it remain within the NIH group, if there are partnerships being formed. Are there institutes within NIH that might want to partner, in terms of providing funding? And how many partners would make it difficult to run the journal?
Tom Goehl: Actually, we just came from a two-hour town meeting with our director, David Schwartz. One of the things he said that he saw the institute moving in the direction of was with increased partnerships within NIH and outside. I think this is something he will welcome, with open arms. I think this is something that will only help him achieve the goals that he sees. That is, this integration of research in the area of environmental health. Applied directly to human health and disease.
George Lucier: The idea of partnerships is not new to the NIEHS. The National Toxicology Program is headquartered at the NIEHS. Yet, it has 10 or 12 partners at various regulatory agencies in the country that are dealing with environmental and occupational health issues. That works quite well.
Clearly, under this kind of structure, there needs to be some place where it’s headquartered. The appropriate place for the journal headquarters is at the NIEHS. But I think it would be wonderful if there were other partners. It doesn’t just have to be other federal agencies. There could be other entities involved with environmental health issues – both at the research, regulatory, policy-making and outreach aspects of it.
Tracey Easthope, MPH, Director, Environmental Health Project, Ecology Center: I was interested in what privatization actually might do. I think Dr. Dearry mentioned that private entities actually might expand some areas. I wonder if you could talk more about what you think -- why you believe that, and what you think private entities might actually add to the journal.
Allen Dearry: As Tom mentioned, a fairly new student edition. It also has teacher lesson plans. I think that – even though it’s in its first year – I think that’s been pretty successful, in terms of enhancing students’ awareness and understanding of that connection between environment and health. Through other programs that we’ve supported, we’ve had similar activities, to produce materials, to train teachers in environmental health science, so that they can use it in a classroom setting.
Some of those products have actually become so successful that they’ve been picked up by the private sector. Once that happens, they actually will really take it and run with it. They will make it vastly more up-to-date. They’ll bring in other scientists to work on it. They’ll distribute it nationwide. They’ll become, in effect, an enterprise in their own right.
That type of what starts as a sort of pilot project or just a seed activity was in the federal government. Once it’s shown to be effective, it can really have a much larger impact, when it’s picked up by a private sector company. That’s just one example of what NIEHS can do to try to start or incubate that type of work. And how it can be passed on to the private sector. It can really be much more effective, on a larger scale.
George Lucier: I think what Allen says is possible, but I think it’s unlikely. If that were the case, then a lot of other journals that would be doing the kinds of things that EHP is doing now. The fact that other journals aren’t doing it means it’s probably unlikely that it would be taken up and done in such an effective way by the private enterprise. I think there’s a lot of risk in attempting to privatize it. It could possibly work, but I think it’s unlikely.
Steve Heilig: Thank you. We’re coming up on the hour, here. First thing I would like to say is – again – for anybody who’s interested… If you go to the journal’s homepage, on the left bar there, down below, there’s a black box, basically, to add your comments if you wish. There’s a lot of information about the journal and about the RFI, there.
I especially would like to thank all of our speakers for a very informative and candid discussion. I think the overall message here is what an incredible amount of support from all corners there is, for this journal. We hope to hear more, as it goes on, of what the process is. Also, I think it would be great to actually have some sort of summary or document about the content of many of the comments, there – if that’s available – without names or otherwise.
Thanks again to our speakers and also to the callers, for the great questions.