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Working with the Exposure Science Group

Providing Support for Other Investigators

In those cases where we provide a support role in a project, the goal is to ensure a high quality exposure assessment for that investigator. There is a classic paper by Siemiatycki and colleagues1 that determines that in some study designs, the most cost effective way to increase the statistical power of your study is to improve the quality of the exposure assessment. Prominent exposure science faculty members at top universities throughout the country argue that a good study will spend equally on the epidemiology and exposure assessment components of a project.

With exposures to historically important compounds and exposure scenarios such as industrial occupational exposures and exposures through proximity to waste sites decreasing, determining which agents to focus on and understanding exposures through an ever increasingly complex web of exposure pathways demands an increasingly well conducted exposure assessment. This fact is being recognized by funding agencies such as NIEHS, and increasing levels of scrutiny are being placed on the exposure assessment components of occupational and environmental epidemiology studies. UC Davis will be well served by developing a reputation as a university that includes strong exposure assessments as part of studies conducted through their campus.

This level of quality cannot be obtained without effort, planning, and funding. The UC Davis Exposure Science Group should be brought into the planning process for studies early, ideally in the study design phase. Once the priorities of the study have been determined in the terms of population of interest, the health impacts of interest, and if known, the compounds of interest, we will work to develop an appropriate study design that may include environmental measurements, biological measurements, environmental modeling and questionnaires. Often, these techniques will be coupled such that we can gain further understanding of the exposures as well as provide input for individuals in the study. This may also benefit future studies as less expensive exposure assessments may be able to be confidently conducted on future populations.

If the study is to involve exposure measurements, there is considerable planning that needs to occur prior to sample collection to ensure high quality data. We will work with the investigator as we develop plans for the exposure assessment. First, out team will identify the best method for collecting samples. We will provide input into the relevant IRB documents for the sampling methods. Protocols will need to be developed to ensure both that the sample is the most relevant for the study purpose, as well as being collected consistently across all participants. Our staff, students, and post-docs will conduct the sampling to ensure a high level of quality. Project specific field staff needs to be well trained in the methods. Methods for storing and shipping of samples will need to be developed and followed. Additionally, we will determine the best method and laboratory for analyzing the sample once it has been collected and put appropriate contracts in place. We will work with the data management personnel to ensure data streams from the exposure assessment are compatible with the study data management system.

Once the study is underway, we will address any problems that may develop in the field, conduct periodic QA/QC checks and review QA/QC goals, and maintain contact with the analysis laboratory to address any problem that may occur on that end. We will work with the investigator to ensure that it is being used appropriately in the analysis, and that they have a clear understanding of any limitations in the data.

Providing Support to Graduate Studies

If you are interested in including aspects of exposure science in your work, contact us and we will wee if we can help you with ideas to improve your project.

 

 

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