The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

EPA to Implement Transparency Requirements for Scientific Studies: It's About Time

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


On Tuesday, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced a proposed rule to strengthen the science used to write the agency’s regulations.  In his announcement, Administrator Pruitt said, “The era of secret science at EPA is coming to an end.  The ability to test, authenticate, and reproduce scientific findings is vital for the integrity of rulemaking process.  Americans deserve to assess the legitimacy of the science underpinning EPA decisions that may impact their lives.”  

The rule will “ensure that the regulatory science underlying agency actions is fully transparent, and that underlying scientific information is publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent validation.”  You can read more about the proposed rule here.

What a concept!  Allowing the public, which includes other scientists and researchers, to scrutinize the data in a study – especially if it is government funded – and to be able to reproduce the findings!

House Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said the following regarding the new rule:

I want to thank Administrator Pruitt for being such a courageous head of the EPA. Today’s announcement shows that we have an administrator who is committed to scientific integrity and to making our government more accountable to the American people.

Surely, we can all agree on two things. First, we need clean air and water. And second, the EPA’s regulations should be supported by legitimate and publicly available scientific data.

Administrator Pruitt’s announcement ensures that data will be secret no more. For too long, the EPA has issued rules and regulations based on data that has been withheld from the American people. Today, Administrator Pruitt rightfully is changing business as usual and putting a stop to hidden agendas.

This announcement aligns with the “Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act of 2017 (HONEST),” which passed the House of Representatives on March 29, 2017, by a bipartisan vote of 228 to 194.

You would have thought more transparency and adhering to the scientific method would bring praise from across the political spectrum.  But, one only needs to read or listen to news reports to find this is not so.  Some of the arguments used to oppose the regulations are surreal.  For example, the April 24 Washington Post’s headline states, “Pruitt unveils controversial 'transparency' rule limiting what research the EPA can use.”  The Post reports, “The proposed rule would only allow the EPA to consider studies where the underlying data is made available publicly. Such restrictions could affect how the agency protects Americans from toxic chemicals, air pollution and other health risks.”  Or from Gretchen Goldman, the research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who said, “There’s been a concerted effort by some to co-opt terms like ‘transparency’ and push this agenda of rolling back public health and safety policies, and doing so by pretending it’s about transparency. This is clearly a case of politics interfering with science.”

How could more information, more data being made public be political or lead to bad science?

Arguing that the EPA’s proposed rule will limit research is a red herring.  Confidential, proprietary, intellectual property, medical histories, and other sensitive material can be protected through redaction.  Data can be aggregated without exposing sensitive information.  Those complaining the loudest know the gig is up.  The days of using politicized science to implment their radical agenda are over.  No longer will the EPA utilize studies that cannot be replicated to promulgate regulations.

The rule will go a long way to address what has become the “replication crisis” where many scientists are finding they cannot reproduce studies conducted by their peers.  On February 22, 2017, the BBC News reported on a 2016 survey, conducted by Nature magazine, which found that more than 70 percent of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientists' experiments.

The proposed rule is another good result coming from President Trump’s executive order for regulatory reform and energy independence.  Other agencies, if not already doing so, should follow the EPA’s example.

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