How Does HEI-Energy Work?

The scientific review and research provided by HEI-Energy aims to provide much-needed support for decisions about how best to protect public health. It will do this by contributing high-quality and credible science to the public debate about unconventional oil and natural gas development (UOGD). To provide impartial scientific reviews and original research, HEI-Energy employs a governance structure that mirrors the one successfully employed for nearly 40 years by its parent organization, the Health Effects Institute (HEI).

  • The Energy Research Committee will develop research solicitations, select studies for funding, and provide oversight and feedback while studies are ongoing.
  • The Energy Review Committee, which will be formed in the near future, will evaluate the final reports after studies have been completed and write commentaries to highlight their strengths and weaknesses.
  • HEI-Energy will publish the reports and commentaries and make them available to the public at no charge.

HEI-Energy is dedicated to producing high-quality science about UOGD, from defining the goals through independently reviewing the results. HEI-Energy itself does not take policy positions; however, the projects that HEI-Energy funds either will provide scientific information of direct and immediate use for policy development or will pave the way for developing such information. 

HEI-Energy’s research program will be guided by a five-year Implementation Plan, developed with input from HEI-Energy sponsors (a partnership of government and industry), other governmental and non-governmental organizations, and the scientific community. Sponsors will not be involved in selecting, overseeing, or evaluating research funded by HEI-Energy.

Energy Research Committee

Expert Committees 

Two independent committees, the Energy Research Committee and the soon-to-be-assembled Energy Review Committee, will work in an environment uniquely structured to foster the necessary separation between selecting and overseeing research and critically reviewing results. This separation allows HEI-Energy to fund and guide research, as well as provide credible peer review of that same research. Members of the scientific staff work closely with the committees to conduct HEI-Energy’s business.

Research Process

The Energy Research Committee is responsible for defining, implementing, and overseeing HEI-Energy’s research program. This committee consults with sponsors and other interested parties to determine research priorities and to develop the HEI-Energy Implementation Plan. The Energy Research Committee also conducts critical reviews of the health and exposure literature to identify knowledge and define research priorities.

Once the Research Committee has defined an area of inquiry, HEI-Energy will issue a research solicitation to announce broadly to the scientific community that research applications are being sought. Applications will be first reviewed for scientific quality by an ad hoc panel and then reviewed by the Energy Research Committee to evaluate the scientific merit and to develop an integrated research program. Studies recommended by the committee will undergo final evaluation by the Board of Directors, which also reviews the procedures, independence, and quality of the selection process.

Review Process 

All HEI-Energy Scientific Reports are subjected to the highest standard of independent peer review.

For future detailed reports of research studies ("Research Reports"), HEI-Energy will be forming an Energy Review Committee in the near future, drawn from experts in the fields of exposure assessment, toxicology, medicine, epidemiology, petroleum chemistry and engineering, hydrology, air quality, risk assessment, and biostatistics. This committee will not be involved in the selection and oversight of HEI-Energy studies. It will conduct a critical, in-depth evaluation of every study funded by HEI-Energy once the study has been completed. 

The Review Committee will assess the scientific quality of each investigator’s report and evaluate the study’s contribution to unresolved scientific questions. HEI-Energy will communicate the complete findings (both positive and negative) of the studies it funds in research reports, which will consist of the investigator’s report and the Energy Review Committee’s commentary on the study. Commentaries discuss the strengths and limitations of the studies and put the findings into scientific and regulatory context. 

With each report, HEI-Energy will also publish a Statement, written for non-scientists, that summarizes the scientific background and rationale for funding the study, the investigator's approach and methods, the key findings, and the Committee's interpretation of the study.

For “Special Reports” such as reviews of the literature, an HEI scientist who has not been involved in the development or production of the report identifies leading independent scientists in the fields of exposure assessment, toxicology, medicine, epidemiology, petroleum chemistry and engineering, hydrology, air quality, risk assessment, and biostatistics to conduct a though peer review of the Report’s methods, analysis, results, and interpretation. HEI-Energy Special reports are published only after the authors have responded to and/or revised the report in line with the peer review comments.

Conflict of Interest 

A robust policy on disclosure and management of relevant affiliations, relationships, and financial interests is essential. HEI-Energy has set out policies for disclosure of such “conflicts” — whether actual or perceived, financial or otherwise. It uses these policies when inviting peer-reviewers and advisors, forming committees, and crafting appropriate roles for committees and their members.