While technology has helped improve safety and health, Watzman said, "in our view, technology alone is not enough to reach the goal of zero injuries.''
But Randy Harris of the West Virginia Office of Miners Health Safety and Training urged the foundation to look for practical solutions, not theoretical studies.
"If research doesn't result in a product being sold or a procedure being implemented, that does not improve safety,'' Harris said. "It's only an intellectual exercise. You haven't really accomplished anything.''
The foundation was created in April under a $210 million settlement with Virginia-based Alpha that spared the company criminal prosecution in the worst U.S. mine disaster in four decades. The agreement also requires Alpha to spend $80 million to improve safety at all of its mines with the latest technology.
The April 2010 explosion at Upper Big Branch near Montcoal killed 29 men and has spawned two criminal prosecutions so far.
"The tragedy at UBB was a bitter reminder that we have much more work to do in mine safety and health,'' said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.
"The goal of the foundation is to make sure our best and brightest minds are working on mine safety and have the resources they need,'' he said. "If we can accomplish that, we'll see breakthroughs that will transform mining in the years ahead. We want a future where mining is as safe as any other job.''The panel was chosen by Alpha and approved by Goodwin's office.