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Changes needed in how federal government evaluates efficiency of research at EPA, other agencies
Date:1/31/2008

WASHINGTON -- The White House Office of Management and Budget evaluates research at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies using the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART), a set of questions that asks agencies about many aspects of their programs, including whether they can measure and demonstrate annual improvements in efficiency. Based on the answers, OMB rates research programs as effective, ineffective, or somewhere in between. An "ineffective" rating can have serious adverse consequences for a program or agency. After experiencing difficulty meeting OMB's requirements to demonstrate the efficiency of its research programs, EPA asked a National Research Council committee for guidance on how to measure efficiency.

The committee's new report recommends four changes in how the federal government assesses the efficiency of research at EPA and other agencies. First, the report emphasizes that assessing efficiency should be considered only one part of evaluating a program's quality, relevance, and effectiveness.

Second, the report introduces a novel distinction between "investment efficiency" and "process efficiency," and recommends that these aspects be evaluated in different ways. Assessments of investment efficiency should examine whether an agency's R&D portfolio, including the budget, is relevant, of high quality, matches the agencys strategic plan, and is adjusted as new knowledge and priorities emerge. These evaluations require panels of experts, which should comprise both scientists and other stakeholders. In contrast, evaluations of process efficiency should focus on "inputs" (the people, funds, and facilities dedicated to research) and "outputs" (the services, grants, publications, monitoring, and new techniques produced by research), as well as their timelines. Of nine measures currently used by R&D agencies, common examples are the number of grants awarded or publications produced annually,
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Contact: Sara Frueh
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
The National Academies
Source:Eurekalert

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