PARC priorities

How are the priorities determined in PARC?

In such a large-scale partnership, establishing priorities is crucial to advance the knowledge and reach the objectives defined within its lifetime. PARC benefited from the HBM4EU legacy and, within work package (WP) 2 “A common science-policy-agenda”, Task 2.1 “Priority Setting” traced back the identification of the first set of priorities established before the launch of PARC. This article briefly describes how the first set of priorities for PARC have been identified and addressed. A more detailed description of the process can be found in the deliverable “Prioritisation Criteria Report” which will be publicly available soon.

To better understand the process, we go back to HBM4EU, in which two complete rounds of substance prioritization took place. The third prioritization round (2020 to 2021) resulted in a list of nominated substances and groups of substances. That list was further discussed within the steering group of PARC and, together with the results of a survey sent to the PARC Governing Board (GB) members, constituted the starting point for the first PARC prioritization round. Important to note that the priorities set under PARC was not only focused on substances and groups of substances for human biomonitoring activities but included also new knowledge, tools and methods for hazard, exposure and risk assessment designed to address both human and environmental concerns.

Despite the limited time frame available to carry out such a complex prioritization process and the fact that internal projects have been included in the work plan of the first year of PARC before the formal PARC review process was completed, their alignment with PARC objectives and their scientific quality was ensured through an open dialogue between the interested parties.

In order to have a clearer view on the prioritization strategy and to map out the criteria that helped prioritizing the substances/ methods within each WP the process was organized in two phases, as shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1. Flowchart of the 1st prioritization process under PARC

In summary, the criteria used to set the priorities regardless of their order of importance were:

  • results from the 3rd round of prioritization done under the HBM4EU project,
  • the methods, endpoints and substances prioritised in the PARC GB survey,
  • the European Commission’s “Chemical Strategy for Sustainability” and the “Strategic Research and Innovation Plan for Safe and Sustainable Chemicals and Materials” documents,
  • the regulatory needs identified by work package leaders (WPL)/task leaders (TL) according to their WP/task objectives,
  • the hazardous properties and characteristics of the substances,
  • the available data and the knowledge gaps,
  • the partners’ interests, their capacities and resources,
  • the interaction and crosslinks with other WPs or tasks within PARC,
  • the scientific activities done outside PARC,
  • the results of discussions with regulatory agencies.

Table 1 shows the substances/groups of substances currently (up to December 2022) selected for studies under each WP.

Table 1. Overview of the substances/groups of substances addressed in each WP and for which advances in risk assessment are expected.

Substances / Group of substancesWP4WP5WP6
Pharmaceuticals / Hazardous medicinal products🗶
Veterinary pharmaceuticals🗶🗶
Plant protection products
BPA, BPA analogues, BPA alternatives, bisphenols
Natural toxins🗶
Flame retardants🗶🗶
Endocrine disrupting compounds (EDC)
Metabolic disrupting compounds (MDC)🗶🗶
Emerging chemicals🗶🗶
Food contact materials🗶

As shown in the table, all three WPs (WP4 "Monitoring and exposure", WP5 "Hazard assessment" and WP6 "Innovation in regulatory risk assessment") address the same substances and / or groups of substances (biocides, bisphenols, plant protection products, endocrine disruptors and mixtures). In contrast, some other substances are studied in a single WP (e.g. mercury and arsenic are studied uniquely under WP4 and flame retardants are addressed only in WP6). Thus, it means that not all the substances included in the PARC rolling Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) have to be addressed in all WPs since activities done under PARC should answer specific knowledge needs or data gaps.

For the upcoming years, in order to best achieve the objectives of PARC, Task 2.1 will implement a process to prioritize the activities within PARC.

The process will consist of:

  • mapping of the regulatory needs in collaboration with the PARC Coordination Team, Task 2.2 and National Hubs;
  • scoring/ranking of activities based on specific priority criteria;
  • preparing background/scoping documents in collaboration with chemical and methodology leaders.

In addition, a rapid response mechanism will be included in PARC to allow any national and European policy makers to submit a request for specific information to the PARC consortium outside of the formal timeframes.