Will EPA Sit Out Scientific Integrity Rule-Making?

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Will EPA Sit Out Scientific Integrity Rule-Making?

Memo Implies EPA Will Not Clarify Scientists’ Right to Publish or Speak with Media

WASHINGTON - Despite a White House directive that federal agencies strengthen
their procedures for ensuring scientific integrity and transparency, the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is apparently planning no changes,
according to an internal EPA e-mail released today by Public Employees
for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result, EPA scientists
will continue to lack consistent rules for publishing studies, speaking
at scientific conferences or answering questions from the media.

On
December, 17, 2010, the White House Office of Science and Technology
Policy (OSTP) issued a memo directing all agencies to "develop and
implement policies" to address a set of issues including scientists'
right to speak and publish, interactions with scientific societies and
the media, as well as a ban against alteration of technical documents
for political reasons. In spite of the fact that EPA has no clear
policies addressing these topics, Administrator Lisa Jackson, in a
December 21, 2010 e-mail to staff circulating the OSTP memo, suggested
that her agency needed to do nothing further because:

"I am proud that we have maintained our commitment to scientific
integrity. Our ongoing work to uphold scientific integrity is part of
our progress as One EPA and should continue to set the standard for
federal government agencies."

"Far from setting the
standard for scientific integrity, EPA daily subjects its scientists to
the murky backwaters of arbitrary ad hoc decision-making," stated PEER
Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that other agencies,
especially the Department of Interior, are moving ahead with
precedent-setting open science policies. "The area where EPA does seem
to set the standard is undeserved self-congratulation."

In a
letter sent today, PEER urged Ms. Jackson to consult its staff
scientists in an earnest effort to promulgate enforceable open science
protocols. PEER cites recent instances where EPA has -

  • Prevented one of its top experts on sea level rise from publishing papers;
  • Impeded scientists from making invited presentations at scientific conferences; and
  • Failed to issue promised guidance on when scientists may speak with Congress or the press.

EPA
also does not have policies on the ability of its scientists to protect
against inappropriate alterations of their work, to participate in
scientific societies or to freely communicate with outside experts,
among other topics contained in the OSTP memo. Nonetheless, Ms.
Jackson's e-mail distinctly implies that she has no plans to promulgate
such policies (nor is there any announced schedule of activity to do so)
even though her agency is supposed to report its progress back to the
White House by mid-April.

"Within EPA management there is a
culture of disrespect for its scientists, an upstairs-downstairs
mentality where scientific acumen carries little weight," added Ruch,
arguing that EPA should be in dialogue with its scientists and unions
right now if it intends to have new rules in place by the spring. "If
agencies such as EPA stand pat, the entire Obama scientific integrity
initiative may produce little more than pious promises."

In
January 2009, shortly after she was sworn in, PEER wrote to
Administrator Jackson pressing her to follow through on her confirmation
commitments to promote "scientific integrity," "rule of law" and
"transparency" by outlawing gag orders, securing the right to publish
and reaching out to agency scientists to hear their views. PEER has yet
to receive an answer to that letter.

###

See Lisa Jackson's memo on scientific integrity 

Read PEER protest letter

Look at sea level rise material EPA is suppressing

View EPA's murky "fishbowl" policy and the unanswered 2009 PEER letter

Review White House directive to agencies on scientific integrity and transparency

###

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.

Share This Article

More in: