Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program

About the 2013 TRI University Challenge

The 2013 TRI University Challenge is closed.

Note: Colleges and universities submitted 17 project proposals, and EPA selected eight of these as TRI University academic partners. The following information is presented as background information.

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 project proposals, EPA intends to place priority on these key project themes and objectives:

  • Pollution Prevention & Sustainability: Promote the use of TRI as a sustainable development tool and the adoption of pollution prevention (P2) technologies.
  • Stakeholder Engagement: Cultivate relationships among stakeholder groups and improve the communication of TRI-related information.
  • Technology and Data Mashups: Investigate the use of new technologies or analytic methods to integrate TRI data with other datasets to unlock the broader potential of TRI data.
  • Environmental Education: Explore replicable ways to integrate TRI information into college and university classrooms.

You may want to view answers to common questions about the Challenge (PDF). 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 found on 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.
  • 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.

How To Partner With EPA

Partnering with EPA is easy! Once EPA has selected and approved your project proposal, we intend to send you a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) (DOC) (4 pp, 38 K) for your signature that describes project activities, deliverables and roles and responsibilities. After signing the MOU, you should:

  • Provide a monthly status update to EPA for the duration of the project.
  • Prepare a summary report at the completion of the project.
  • Present findings to EPA.

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. Here are a few ideas to help get you started:

Factory Pipes

Pollution Prevention (P2) & Sustainability

  • Conduct a sector or chemical-level analysis of TRI Pollution Prevention (P2) data to determine why pollution decreased or increased over a given period of time and the extent to which specific P2 or pollution control activities contributed.
  • Evaluate the new TRI Pollution Prevention webpage and online tool to assess its suitability for particular uses and suggest improvements.
  • Identify replicable methods to use TRI Information to monitor progress toward meeting P2 goals, including the establishment of a P2 metric.

Stakeholder Engagement

  • Analyze communities that are currently using TRI data and produce a case study demonstrating how communities have benefitted from the use of TRI data.
  • Develop and pilot test a model for working with community groups, community leaders, elected officials, local industry and residents to set goals for reducing pollution, using TRI data as one resource. Include a step-by-step approach to access various TRI tools to answer key questions that can be easily replicated.

Technology and Data Mashups

Students looking at a computer screen
  • Study the various EPA online tools that are available for accessing data related to the release of toxic chemicals, and develop a guide that the public could use to determine how best to integrate TRI data with one or more air quality data systems and/or online tools.
  • Overlay other environmental datasets from within EPA and other agencies with TRI data (e.g., using GIS layers).

Environmental Education

  • Collaborate with EPA to create 1-to-2 day TRI modules to incorporate into existing environmental courses.
  • Explore pathways to introduce TRI data to specific audiences (e.g., green engineering, special needs, and journalism students).

Are you interested in the TRI University Challenge?

If you have any questions about the application process or the TRI University Challenge in general, contact Zachary Scott at

Become a Partner

The Application Period for prospective applicants opened on March 18, 2013 and closed on May 13, 2013.

Evaluation Process

EPA evaluated the technical merit of each proposal using the following factors:

    • Clarity and Effectiveness of Proposed Approach (40 points)
    • Demonstrate innovative and effective technical approach
    • Describe how proposed project supports TRI University objectives
    • Identify project schedule and clear project milestones
    • Project Outcomes (40 points)
    • Describe specific results and/or products that will be developed
    • Describe overall project benefits (to communities, other colleges/universities, students) and ability to replicate in other communities and/or nationally
    • Discuss how the project advances TRI-related research and knowledge
    • Identify specific project-related metrics
    • Partner Capabilities (20 points)
    • Briefly state why you're interested in your proposed project
    • Describe qualifications of Project Team and/or Project Director
    • Discuss student involvement, if applicable

TRI University Challenge Schedule

Student Collaboration
  • March 18, 2013 Application period opens
  • May 13, 2013 Applications due to EPA
  • May/June 2013 Evaluation of project proposals by EPA
  • July 3, 2013 Notification of decisions to applicants
  • August/September 2013 Launch new Partner Projects

Webinar Recordings and Slides

EPA held three Webinars to provide more information about the TRI University Challenge. The first webinar, on March 13, provided a general overview of the TRI University Challenge and how to get involved. The second and third webinars, on April 19 and April 17, featured subject matter experts on each of the four project themes for TRI University – P2, Stakeholder Engagement, Technology and Data Mashups, and Environmental Education. Since the second and third webinars featured the same content, we are only providing a recording of the second webinar.

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).