Lawsuit to Expose Cause of Scientific Integrity Rules Holdup

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Email: info@peer.org

Lawsuit to Expose Cause of Scientific Integrity Rules Holdup

Which Agencies Object to Transparency and Non-Tampering in Scientific Reports?

WASHINGTON - The White House is wrongfully withholding documents detailing why its
proposed scientific integrity and transparency rules are being waylaid,
according to a lawsuit filed today by Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  The promised rules are already 15
months overdue and are subject to intense pushback from agencies seeking
to preserve prerogatives to rewrite scientific and technical documents
for political purposes.   

On March 9, 2009, President Obama issued an Executive Memorandum to all
departments declaring his intent to adopt policies that protect
scientific integrity.  That order directed the White House Office of
Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to develop rules for Presidential
action by July 9, 2009.  More than a year later, however, no rules have
emerged and no new target date has been announced.

In a June 18, 2010 blog post, OSTP Director John Holdren wrote that the
promulgation “process has been more laborious and time-consuming than
expected,” adding:

 
“Indeed, OSTP began the process by creating an interagency panel with
representatives from all of the major science offices and agencies...
the group developed draft recommendations for consideration by OSTP and
OMB [Office of Management & Budget]. And over the intervening months
representatives from those two offices have been honing a final set of
recommendations.”

On August 11, 2010, PEER submitted a Freedom of Information Act request
to OSTP for a copy of the panel’s recommendations as well as for
official position papers from participating agencies.  OSTP did not
acknowledge the PEER request for more than a month but wrote on
September 20, 2010 that it was “still in the information gathering
phase.”  By mid-October OSTP still could not commit to providing a
single document within a set timeframe so PEER today filed suit in
federal district court in the District of Columbia seeking an order that
OSTP turn over the requested documents.

“Why is the development of transparency policy cloaked in secrecy?”
asked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, indicating that the long delay
signals an intense behind-the-scenes bureaucratic tug-of-war.  “The
public should know which agencies oppose a presidential directive to
stop politicizing science and why.”

If implemented as written, the Obama March 2009 order would bring
revolutionary change to the way federal agencies treat science and
scientists, who would be extended whistleblower protection for reporting
data manipulation or suppression.  It would also bring a new openness
to how science is conducted and reported.   The scope of these changes
is indicated by a sweeping September 29, 2010 order by Interior
Secretary Ken Salazar pledging to write integrity rules without waiting
for OSTP.

“Purging politics from science is precisely the type of fundamental
reform on which Barack Obama campaigned and now that he is President is
within his power to order,” Ruch added, noting concern that OMB is
diluting draft science rules as it has with other proposed regulations. 
“So, why is this ‘change we need’ still in limbo?”   

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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