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Health & Environmental Research Online (HERO)

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Basic Information

What is HERO?

The Health and Environmental Research Online is a database of scientific studies and other references used to develop EPA's risk assessments aimed at understanding the health and environmental effects of pollutants and chemicals. It is developed and managed in EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) by the National Center for Environmental Assessment (NCEA).

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What is risk asssessment?

Risk assessment is a process in which information is analyzed to determine if an environmental hazard might cause harm to exposed persons and ecosystems. This process is highly interdisciplinary in that it draws from such diverse fields as biology, toxicology, ecology, epidemiology, engineering, geology, statistics, and the social sciences to create a rational framework for evaluating environmental hazards. EPA uses risk assessment as a tool to integrate exposure and health or ecological effects information into a characterization of the potential for health hazards in humans or our environment. Read more about risk assessment at EPA.

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What data does HERO provide?

For each reference, HERO contains:

  • Reference type
  • Citation elements: authors, title, year of publication, source. Depending on the type of reference, the citation will also include volume, page numbers, URL, etc.
  • Abstract or brief description
  • Topic areas that describe the reference (e.g., carbon monoxide, asthma)
  • Assessment(s) in which the reference was used, if relevant. Note that HERO contains references considered for use in assessment development, not just those references actually used.
  • For "key" studies: objective, quantitative extracted study data [future enhancement]

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How do I use HERO?

Click on the search button and type text into one of the search fields. Or search using the topic or assessment categories at the bottom of the search form. You can limit your search by year, authors and reference type. You can also browse through the website and click on the links that take you to references related to various topics. A list of references related to your query will come up. One click on a reference in the list will expand the lower half of the screen with more data for that reference.

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What studies does HERO include?

HERO includes studies used in assessment development, whether cited as a reference or considered for use. Read more about the literature search and literature screening processes.

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What are the different reference types in HERO?

HERO uses a variety of reference types; the majority of references are original research published in peer-reviewed literature. The field of library and information science provides us with standardized definitions, required and optional fields, and citation formats for each reference type.

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What are the different topic areas covered by HERO?

HERO covers studies about a broad range of pollutants, chemicals, health and environmental effects. You can browse through these topics on the bottom half of the search screen. This list is constantly growing as more studies are added. HERO's goal is to include the scientific literature used in all of NCEA's assessments. We welcome your suggestions for additional data sources you think should be included.

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How often is HERO updated?

HERO is constantly being updated as new studies are published. We have a team of information specialists who use advanced search techniques to keep studies on relevant topics feeding into HERO. This enables scientists to keep on top of the rapidly-growing body of literature and meet NCEA's mission of assessing the state-of-the-science to protect human health and welfare. In addition, NCEA has plans to enhance HERO's functionality per your ideas. Please tell us how we can make HERO more useful to you.

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What are the plans for revising HERO?

HERO revisions are planned to broaden both the features and scope of information included. Future directions include additional data sets, environmental models, and services that connect data and models. Team HERO wants to hear your ideas for improving HERO.

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Why did EPA develop HERO?

HERO was developed as part of changes to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment processes. Beginning in 2005 with a revision to the NAAQS Review Process, EPA was tasked with creating a "more detailed and comprehensive science assessment support document, which will eventually be linked to an electronic database of scientific studies... [to] facilitate a more continuous process to identify, compile, characterize, and prioritize new scientific studies." Furthermore, it was deemed "essential that the best science and the greatest transparency inform air quality standards that prevent illness and save lives." More recently EPA Announced a New IRIS Assessment Development Process which is designed to improve "efficiency, scientific integrity, and transparency in a program that plays a vital role in our mission to protect human health and the environment."

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Why is a study not available in HERO?

Studies are constantly being added to HERO. If a study is not currently included it is either because: a) it has not been used or considered for use in an assessment; b) it has not yet been suggested; or c) it does not fit in the criteria for inclusion. Generally, scientific studies are published in peer-reviewed journals and relate to one of EPA's areas of concern. Please don't hesitate to suggest studies; we will respond to every suggestion.

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What is the difference between HERO and Science Inventory?

HERO's focus is on the world's published scientific literature, including studies that are conducted by EPA and its partners. Science Inventory is a database of scientific publications and science activities conducted by and for EPA. They complement each other.

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Where else can I find scientific studies?

There are many public and subscription databases of scientific studies, and we provide a comprehensive list. We welcome your suggestions for sources that we haven't included.

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Can I suggest studies for HERO?

Yes. It would be helpful to include as much of the citation as you can - authors, journal, title, year, volume, pages, etc. We welcome your suggestions.

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How will my comments be used?

HERO is being continually improved in direct response to user suggestions. Send us your suggestions..

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