Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program

2015 TRI University Challenge

Announcing the 2015 TRI University Challenge

2015 TRI University Challenge

Every year, thousands of U.S. manufacturing and other industrial facilities submit reports on their waste management practices of certain toxic chemicals, including the release of those chemicals into the environment. The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program makes data about management and releases of these chemicals available to everyone through a variety of online reports, search tools, and applications.

About the TRI University Challenge

The 2015 TRI University Challenge aims to increase awareness of the TRI Program and data within academic communities; expose students to TRI data, tools, and analysis; and generate innovative programs, activities, recommendations, or research that improve the accessibility, awareness, and use of TRI data.

EPA is looking to academic institutions to help build a diverse portfolio of practical and replicable projects that benefit communities, the environment, academic institutions, and the TRI Program.

EPA welcomes the submission of any project proposal that advances the knowledge, use, and understanding of TRI data and related information. In reviewing proposals, EPA intends to place priority on projects that focus on the following themes:

  • Turning environmental data into understanding: Stimulate the analysis and transformation of data to usable knowledge that promotes the use and understanding of TRI and related data
  • Pollution prevention and sustainability: Promote the use of TRI as a sustainable development tool and the adoption of pollution prevention (P2) technologies and practices
  • Community engagement: Cultivate relationships among stakeholder groups and improve the communications of TRI-related information

To learn more about TRI data, applicants can use the myRight-To-Know and TRI Explorer tools. Additional TRI tools and factors to consider when using TRI data can be accessed at the TRI Data and Tools webpage.


Anyone who is affiliated with an accredited college or university is welcome to apply. Proposed projects may range from one semester to multi-year research or coursework. Applicants may include, but are not limited to:

  • Undergraduate/graduate students with faculty leadership
  • Academic faculty and researchers
  • Ph.D. candidates

Benefits of Becoming a Partner

As a partner, you will receive direct support from EPA TRI staff experts to answer questions and assist you with TRI tools and data analysis. In addition, you can expect to:

Student and teacher siting at a table
  • Receive national recognition and promotion for your university, students and project activities by being featured on the TRI University Challenge website, and offered opportunities to speak at conferences and events;
  • Collaborate with EPA and peers to advance TRI-related research and knowledge;
  • Participate in special networking events and webinars;
  • Engage students to understand and solve problems relevant to their communities; and
  • Help students gain practical experience working on environmental issues with EPA.

While no major funding is available for these projects, existing EPA grant programs may be leveraged by participants, and we suggest that applicants reach out to their communities or other organizations for additional financial support, if needed.

Informational Webinars

  • Webinar 1: Learn more about the TRI Program and the Challenge.  
  • Webinar 2: Hear from a current TRI University Challenge partner and learn about the three themes for the 2015 Challenge. 

Sample Project Ideas

There are many issues relevant to TRI stakeholders and communities—we are looking for projects to help push the envelope on using TRI data and related information. The key project themes for the 2015 TRI University Challenge are Turning Environmental Data into Understanding, Pollution Prevention and Sustainability, and Community Engagement. Here are a few ideas to help get you started:

Turning Environmental Data into Understanding

Students looking at a computer screen
  • Create innovative visualizations that expand the TRI Program’s capabilities to communicate TRI data to the general public or specialized audiences.
  • Overlay other environmental datasets from within EPA and other agencies with TRI data (e.g., using GIS layers).
  • Use predictive analytics to identify non-TRI datasets which influence TRI release data, or to identify ways that TRI release trends influence other datasets.

Pollution Prevention and Sustainability

  • Examine why facilities do or do not implement pollution prevention or source reduction measures, and what the obstacles to implementation are
  • Identify replicable methods to use TRI information to monitor progress toward meeting P2 goals, including the establishment of a P2 metric

Community Engagement

  • Strategize and visualize new, innovative ways for TRI data to be more accessible to traditionally hard-to-reach communities and groups
  • Create sharing networks that facilitate communications and collaboration between TRI stakeholders through the collection and visualization of relevant data
  • Develop a methodology for bringing stakeholders (e.g. community, regulators, industry) together to affect change that benefits human health and the environment

Become a Partner

The application period for prospective applicants opens on February 11, 2015, and closes on March 27, 2015.

Application Process

  1. Complete the Partner Application Form. Partner Application Form(3 pp, 38 K)
  2. Send completed application to by midnight on March 27, 2015.

Evaluation Process

EPA will be evaluating TRI University Challenge proposals based on the evaluation criteria listed below. Proposals will be assessed based on their technical merit and how completely the proposal addresses each of the following elements:

Clarity and Effectiveness of Proposed Approach (40 points)

  • Project innovation and effectiveness of the technical approach
  • Support of TRI University Challenge objectives
  • Clarity of project schedule and realistic milestones

Project Outcomes (40 points)

  • Project results and/or products developed
  • Overall project benefits (to communities, other colleges/universities, students) and ability to replicate in other communities and/or on a national scale
  • Advancement of TRI-related research and knowledge
  • Specific project-related metrics

Partner Capabilities (20 points)

  • Qualifications of the Project Team and/or Project Director
  • Availability of resources (time, departmental support, etc) to pursue project
  • Student or community involvement, if applicable

Post-Selection Process

Once EPA has selected and approved your project proposal, we intend to send you a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for your signature that describes project activities, deliverables and roles and responsibilities. After signing the MOU, you should:

  • Provide regular status updates to your EPA contact for the duration of the project.
  • Prepare a summary report at the completion of the project.
  • Present findings to EPA.

TRI University Challenge Schedule

Student Collaboration
  • February 11, 2015: Application period opens
  • March 27, 2015: Applications due to EPA
  • April 2015: Evaluation of project proposals by EPA
  • May 2015: Notification of decisions to applicants
  • August/September 2015: Launch new Partner Projects

Other Materials

Any reports, conclusions and recommendations created and submitted by academic institutions participating in the TRI University Challenge do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the TRI Program or the U.S. EPA, nor does EPA or any of its employees endorse the providers of such material. EPA is providing these materials for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of information provided by the academic institutions. Project proposals may consist of or include copyrightable or other proprietary subject matter (IP). Applicants grant to EPA permission to use all project proposals for purposes of evaluation. EPA and the winning applicant(s) will negotiate rights in project proposal IP and memorialize those rights in the MOU. Title to any project proposal intellectual property will remain with the winning applicant(s).