Time and again in recent years, industry and its allies in Washington have distorted science and pressured scientists. The Bush Administration, for example, repeatedly substituted the ideological views of political appointees for the scientific assessments of agency experts, sometimes suppressing research, sometimes rewriting expert analysis.
The purpose of these anti-science efforts is almost always the same: to avoid taking needed steps to protect the environment, public health and safety. By suppressing data and scientific findings documenting the extent of climate change, for example, the Bush Administration hoped to forestall meaningful action on the issue, in an effort to protect its industry allies from the inconvenience and expense of changing their polluting ways. Similarly, by suppressing the results of scientific data about the environmental effects of their pesticides, manufacturers hope to avoid the statutory requirements of the nation’s anti-pollution laws.
In 2008, CPR Member Scholars Rena Steinzor and Wendy Wagner, together with CPR Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz published Saving Science from Politics: Nine Essential Reforms of the Legal System (675 kb download). As its title suggests, the white paper proposes a series of practical reforms, including requiring that studies submitted to federal agencies be accompanied by disclosure of the amount of control sponsors had over the design and publication of research, ending the current practice of overly broad trade-secret claims intended to prevent disclosure of important research to the public, and strengthening the legal requirement that companies disclose information they have about the risks their products pose to public health and the environment.
The election of Barack Obama marked an important turning point in science policy. On March 9, 2009 President Obama ordered John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a plan to “ensur[e] the highest level of integrity in all aspects of the executive branch's involvement with scientific and technological processes.” The order requested that each agency create “procedures to identify and address instances in which the scientific process or the integrity of scientific and technological information may be compromised.” The President ordered Director Holdren to deliver recommendations by mid-July 2009. That same month, CPR Member Scholars Rena Steinzor and Wendy Wagner published an op-ed offering advice to the President and Director Holdren, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Austin American-Statesman, and the Baltimore Sun. On April 3, 2009, Steinzor and Wagner sent a letter to White House Science Advisor John Holdren making specific recommendations on how to protect science from politics in the Obama Administration. Among their recommendations was a call for the White House to open the process of developing its science policy up for public comment. The White House took that advice, and on May 13, Steinzor joined CPR Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz in formal comments on the policy.
In September 2012, CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor and Policy Analyst Waydin Radin published a white paper exposing the work of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) and Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), two industry advocacy groups that have undue influence on the regulation of toxic chemicals. The two firms specialize in a particularly insidious brand of “dirty” science by recruiting EPA experts to co-author papers and participate in policy-making workshops that are heavily biased toward manufacturer interests.
Read about CPR Member Scholars’ work to rescue science from politics: