National Occupational Research Agenda
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 96-115
Appendix C: NORA Development & Synthesis
Sources of Input
In developing NORA, NIOSH sought the expertise of all segments of the occupational safety and health community as well as the opinions of the general public. NIOSH obtained the involvement and input of employers, employees, health officials and other professionals, scientists, and various types of organizations (public health, advocacy, scientific, industry, and labor) through the assistance of the following:
- Three liaison committees (corporate, worker, and broad-based stakeholder outreach committees representing the companies, unions, associations, and groups listed in Table C-1)
- Federal agencies listed in Appendix B (regulatory and nonregulatory agencies with interest in occupational safety and health)
- NIOSH staff and the NIOSH Board of Scientific Counselors
- The Mine Health Research Advisory Committee
- The National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health
Summary of the NORA Process
This section briefly describes the NORA process. Figure C-1 illustrates how individuals and groups provided input and how the final research agenda was established.
Using a modified Delphi process (iterations of expert opinion), an initial planning working group of senior scientists from inside and outside NIOSH derived a framework and developed a list of 48 potential research topics. They also identified 21 of these topics as having high priority based on seven criteria: seriousness of hazard (based on death, injury, disease, disability, and economic impact), number of workers, magnitude of risk, potential for risk reduction, expected trend in importance of research area, sufficiency of existing research, and probability that research will make a difference.
The topic list was modified and increased to approximately 80 items–with input from four additional working groups (occupational safety and health researchers from outside NIOSH, NIOSH scientists, occupational safety and health professionals, and other professionals in the field) and oral and written comments from individuals and representatives of other institutions and organizations. The working groups met in public forums to provide input and help identify priority research topics. Each group was allowed to modify the list by adding or merging topics as deemed appropriate; they were then asked to arrive at a list of 15 to 25 priority topics, again using a modified Delphi process (iterations of individually ranked priority areas). The priority list was not necessarily a consensus of the group, but it reflected the collective knowledge and opinions of individuals in the group. Appendix A lists all items identified by the working groups as potential priority research areas. All working group meetings (except for the NIOSH scientists meeting) were announced in the Federal Register, with the public invited to participate.
Town meetings were held in Chicago, Boston, and Seattle with the intent of capturing input directly from workers, their employers, and other interested individuals. Written comments were accepted throughout the entire process until March 6, 1996; they were received by mail, by facsimile, and in person at the working group and town meetings.
Final research priorities were determined on the basis of (1) the input from the initial planning working group and four other working groups, (2) written comments received, (3) oral comments made at the public and town meetings, and (4) comments made during deliberations throughout the entire process. The prioritization of research topics was not addressed quantitatively, but all input was evaluated with respect to the frequency of endorsement and the seven aforementioned criteria used by the working groups to identify high-priority topics.
A public meeting was held in Washington, D.C., to obtain responses on the draft NORA document. All liaison and advisory committees, agency representatives, working group members, interested individuals, and the public participated. The time line of these activities is shown in Table C-2.