The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has set aside $11 million to continue to publish its "environmental health" journal online, according to a government contract released on New Year's Eve.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) publishes a monthly peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), which operates on the WordPress platform, at a cost of $2.2 million a year.
Brogan & Partners Advertising Consultancy could be paid up to $11,407,278 to run the site over a five-year period. The ad agency previously developed a "guerrilla marketing campaign" at bars for free HIV treatment in Michigan and created a Facebook page for honey-baked ham.
The purpose of the contract is "for the publication of the Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) journal," which will "communicate recent scientific findings and trends in the environmental health sciences" and "inform the public about important topics in environmental health."
A "major objective" listed is to make the journal "accessible to people with disabilities" and to "increase readership."
The online publication includes an archive of the print version of EHP, a monthly journal issued by the NIH since 1972. The print version was eliminated in January 2012, shifting all of the journal’s content online. Archives are also available in Chinese, Spanish, and French.
NIH issued a request for information in April 2012 on how to "enhance EHP's current online presence."
NIH wanted prospective contractors to "provide information as to how your agency/organization can reduce wasteful spending and use more efficient methods of production."
EHP now runs as a WordPress site, a free web-hosting platform, according to the contract’s Performance Work Statement (PWS).
Under the new contract, Brogan & Partners will be responsible for publishing the journal 12 times a year, on the first business day of each month. Its responsibilities include monitoring reader responses, developing a mobile phone app, copyediting, proofreading, and increasing readership through marketing.
The government selects the content for each edition, which includes scientific papers, manuscripts, and editorials. The editor-in-chief and all editorial staff are employees of NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).
EHP has recently featured a cover story on "urban gardening," an article on wind turbines, and a paper on "Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate and Pyrethroid Pesticides and Behavioral Problems in Canadian Children."
Every monthly issue consists of about 25 commentaries, reviews, and research articles, one editorial, and four to five letters to the editor.
Brogan & Partners will also be in charge of graphics for the website to "enhance reader understanding and publication attractiveness."
"The graphics shall work strategically with the text to present important concepts, illustrate and clarify points made in the text, convey information that would be cumbersome or impossible to describe in words, and/or add visual appeal," the PWS said.
A spokesperson for Brogan & Partners said they could not comment to the Washington Free Beacon on any information pertaining to their work on EHP and referred all questions to Joe Balintfy, an NIH spokesman.
When asked to justify the cost of the contract, Balintfy told the Free Beacon that publishing the journal amounts to over $2 million a year.
"The EHP contract is for a period of up to five years, so the cost is roughly $2.2 million per year," said Balintfy, who works in the office of communications and public liaison for the NIEHS. "The contract is renewed one year at a time, subject to budgetary and other constraints."
"Supporting the publication of EHP is consistent with the congressionally mandated purpose of NIEHS including the ‘dissemination of research findings, knowledge, and information on environmental health science,’" he said.