Health & Environmental Research Online (HERO)


Learn About HERO


What is HERO?

Health and Environmental Research Online (HERO) 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 assessment?

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, PubMed ID, doi, 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 or cited.
  • For "key" studies: objective, quantitative extracted study data [future enhancement]

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How do I use HERO?

  • Browsing: You can browse HERO by selecting a project from the Project page. This will take you to the project's reference page where references that are used in the assessment development process are listed.
  • Searching: You can search public references in HERO through the Search page. You can either do a simple search or submit more specific searches in the Fielded Search area.
  • Exporting: Once you have found what you want, you can export the reference metadata to EndNote reference manager by choosing the reference(s) you want and clicking "Export to EndNote." Your browser will download an RIS file that you can import into EndNote, or other reference managers compatible with the RIS format.

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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 project page. 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. Contact us with 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. Contact us to let us know 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. Contact us with 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. Contact us to suggest studies.

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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. The Science Inventory is a searchable database of research products primarily from EPA's Office of Research and Development. 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. Contact us with 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. Contact us with your suggestions.

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How will my comments be used?

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

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