What is HHEAR?

HHEAR is a resource that gives extramural researchers access to laboratory and data analyses of environmental exposures to support their health research projects. The goal is to advance understanding of the impact of environmental exposures on health either by adding analysis of exposures for the first time or by significantly expanding exposure analysis for studies that have previously considered exposures. Ultimately, HHEAR seeks to characterize the exposome and improve our knowledge of the comprehensive effects of environmental exposures on health throughout the life course.

What kinds of analyses will HHEAR provide?

For successful applicants, HHEAR provides analytical services to support researchers who want to include environmental exposure assessment in their studies of human health. Exposures measured by HHEAR cover the breadth of the exposome. The HHEAR National Exposure Assessment Laboratory Network provides both targeted and untargeted exposure analyses of human biological samples and environmental samples. The Data Center provides a repository for all data generated by the National Exposure Assessment Laboratory Network, and provides statistical analyses, data integration, and interpretation services to extramural researchers. The Data Center is designed to help extramural researchers maximize the impact of exposure data throughout the research community.

How is HHEAR organized?

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) established HHEAR with additional support provided by NCI, NHLBI, and the ECHO Program, which is comprised of three related components:

  • A Network of Exposure Assessment Laboratories (Lab Hubs), providing targeted and untargeted environmental exposure analyses in human biological and environmental samples
  • A Data Repository, Analysis, and Science Center, providing statistical services, a data repository, and data standards for integration and sharing
  • A Coordinating Center, connecting the research community to these exposure resources

Who can use HHEAR?

Information on who may be eligible for HHEAR services is provided on the Eligibility page of the HHEAR website. If you have more questions about who can use HHEAR, please contact the Coordinating Center at HHEARhelp@westat.com. To learn more about how HHEAR works, please read the HHEAR Policies for Access to Services.

How do I apply for HHEAR services?

Instructions on how to apply for HHEAR services are provided on the How to Apply page of HHEAR website. If you have more questions about how to apply, please contact the Coordinating Center at HHEARhelp@westat.com. To learn more about how HHEAR works, please read the HHEAR Policies for Access to Services.

What happens after my project is approved?

Information on what to do after your project is approved is provided on the “Post-Approval Process” page of the HHEAR website. If you have more questions about what happens after your project is approved, please contact the Coordinating Center at HHEARhelp@westat.com. To learn more about how HHEAR works, please read the HHEAR Policies for Access to Services.

When will I be able to apply to HHEAR?

HHEAR will begin accepting applications on January 31, 2020.

What types of samples can I submit to HHEAR for analyses?

HHEAR will accept human biological samples (such as blood, serum, or urine) and environmental samples (such as dust, soil, water, air sampling media, hand wipes, or silicone wristbands). Samples must be existing in-hand and ready to ship, with accurate counts. All samples must be linked to available health outcome data.

What will happen to my existing CHEAR project?

CHEAR has ended and is not accepting new applications. The program will complete laboratory analyses for already approved studies, and data from the studies will be made available to researchers in the Data Repository after an embargo period. Researchers with approved projects should continue to use their myCHEAR accounts to track the progress of their project. CHEAR applicants whose projects were not approved and who meet the HHEAR eligibility requirements may submit proposals for HHEAR services.

I'm budgeting for an NIH grant that may use HHEAR resources. How should I handle that?

We encourage potential grant applicants to include specific funds and dedicated laboratories for the analyses of exposures central to their hypotheses and specific aims within their budget plans. HHEAR investigators may be available to collaborate on these proposals as part of your research proposal or in a fee-for-service/ cost-recovery basis but HHEAR does not currently plan to commit resources for pending applications nor to support analyses which are included within funded research. These studies may, however, potentially be eligible to expand exposure analyses using HHEAR but this cannot be guaranteed at the time of application submission.

Do I need IRB approvals to utilize HHEAR?

Yes. Investigators need to have IRB approval to support the analyses of samples by HHEAR. IRBs need to confirm that the provided data may be shared per HHEAR data sharing policies.

How is HHEAR related to the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program?

ECHO is a separate, larger, effort at the NIH. ECHO has assembled cohorts to study how environmental factors, especially during pregnancy and the first 5 years of life, affect four key pediatric outcomes: upper and lower respiratory disease, obesity, perinatal health, neurodevelopment, and positive health.

HHEAR is not limited to this age group or these five outcomes. It is more broadly applicable to environmental exposures throughout the life-span and to health outcomes beyond the ECHO priority areas.

The ECHO Program provides funding to HHEAR for dedicated support of ECHO-wide analyses, but this will not interfere with other users' access to HHEAR's services, which are funded by NIEHS, NHLBI, and NCI.

How is a Laboratory Hub assigned?

The Lab Hubs in the HHEAR Laboratory Network are assigned to a project for consultation based on the following criteria:

  • Analytic requirements of the proposed project.
  • The NIH Institute which funded the parent study.
  • Lab Hub expertise.
  • Available capacity and workload balance among Lab Hubs.
  • Interest in the proposed project.

What is the minimum/maximum number of samples you will accept per study for laboratory analysis?

A project's eligibility for HHEAR services does not depend on a predetermined number of biological and/or environmental samples available for analysis; CHEAR supported projects with as few as 100 samples and as many as 6,000. The number and characteristics of biological/environmental samples will be considerations for assessing the feasibility of the proposed laboratory analyses and the data analysis plan. These aspects influence both the power to test hypotheses and the workload of the HHEAR Lab Hubs. Assessments will be made by the HHEAR Lab Hubs and HHEAR Data Center in consultation with the applicant as part of the proposal review process.

We encourage you to submit an Initial Application to confirm your project's eligibility and initiate the proposal submission and review process. You need to register for a myHHEAR account to start the process. If you have questions about your eligibility before submitting an application, you can contact the Coordinating Center at HHEARhelp@westat.com.

I am not an environmental epidemiologist but would like to add exposure analysis to my study. How can HHEAR help?

HHEAR can provide guidance on how to add exposure analysis to your study. We can work with you to support the development of a proposal that is consistent with the goals of HHEAR and that maximizes the scientific value of your project.

We encourage you to submit an Initial Application to initiate the proposal submission and review process. As part of the review process, the HHEAR Lab Hubs and HHEAR Data Center will make recommendations in consultation with you.

I have some of my samples in hand but have not yet completed recruitment or sample collection. Can I secure HHEAR support for samples not yet collected?

An application will not progress to approval until sufficient sample numbers and outcome data are available to support the feasibility of the project.

I am not the Principal Investigator of the proposed HHEAR project, but I would like to submit a HHEAR application on behalf of someone else. How should I handle that?

When you create a myHHEAR account, the contact information you provide will prefill parts of your application. The name associated with the myHHEAR account should be the name of the Principal Investigator for the proposed HHEAR project.