To support the development of new environmental health-focused research, the Pilot Project Program supports developmental projects aimed at competing for NIEHS-funded R21 or R01 research grants. It is critical for investigators to consider the research priorities of NIEHS in their pilot project plans to ensure alignment with the goals of the Center.
The National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) research uses state-of-the-art science and technology to investigate the interplay between environmental exposures, human biology, genetics, and common diseases to help prevent disease and improve human health. –NIEHS website (www.niehs.nih.gov)
This mission statement underlies the major research priorities of NIEHS, and thus the major research interests of HERCULES. The Institute provides investigators with a comprehensive and searchable database of their funded research (https://tools.niehs.nih.gov/portfolio/) that investigators should consider when planning their research proposals.
In August 2018, NIEHS released its 2018-2023 strategic plan (https://www.niehs.nih.gov/about/strategicplan/index.cfm) setting forth the research priorities of the Institute.
The Institute defined three Major Themes of its mission and a number of specific priorities within those themes, which are outlined below. Although these are not the only areas of research supported by the Institute, they demarcate research priorities and represent strategic opportunities for Emory Investigators to consider within their own research programs, as well as being priorities for consideration in the review of HERCULES pilots.
Theme One: Advancing Environmental Health Sciences
- Basic Biological Research around pathways affected by environmental factors and developmental sensitivities throughout life.
- Individual Susceptibility including work on genetic and epigenetic susceptibility and underlying health or sex differences that define environmental risk.
- Microbiome research both in understanding the environment’s affects on the microbiome and the role of the microbiome in response to the environment.
- Exposome research to advance our understanding of the totality of the environment’s impact throughout life, including new technologies and integrative omics analyses.
- Co-exposure research considering both how to assess these mixtures and novel analytical and technological approaches to their study.
- Predictive Toxicology to take advantage of knowledge of biological processes to develop computational models to predict the effects of exposures, and includes novel organ-on-a-chip and systems biology studies.
- Data Science and Big Data approaches to share, integrate, and analyze large datasets and to ensure that new data are developed using findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR) standards.
Theme Two: Promoting Translation – Data to Knowledge to Action
- Creating Knowledge from Data by integrating and synthesizing across research findings to impact public health, with an emphasis on Data Science and Big Data approaches.
- Outreach, Communications, and Engagement, which are the emphasis of the HERCULES Community Engagement Core, to incorporate local community environmental concerns into research programs and share research results in an appropriate and useful way.
- Evidence-Based Prevention and Intervention to develop and promote efforts to translate research into prevention, avoidance, and risk elimination strategies while ensuring the validity of these efforts.
- Environmental Health Disparities and Environmental Justice to ensure that environmental health research considers disadvantaged and diverse communities and combines work on physical and chemical exposures with social determinants of health.
- Emerging Environmental Health Issues around climate change, severe weather, industrial accidents and pandemic disease.
- Partnerships for Action to build partnerships with various stakeholders to ensure affected communities are appropriately served in environmental health research.
Theme Three: Enhancing EHS Through Stewardship and Support
This theme underlies the mission of the HERCULES Center as well as other research resources supported by NIEHS, such as individual and institutional training grants and the HERCULES Career Development Core