Union of Concerned Scientists study: Hundreds of EPA scientists report political interference

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An investigation of the Environmental Protection Agency released April 23 found that 889 of nearly 1,600 staff scientists reported that they experienced political interference in their work over the last five years. Hundreds of scientists reported being unable to openly express concerns about EPA’s work without fear of retaliation. A majority of respondents said EPA policies do not let scientists talk freely with the news media about their findings. The next President, Congress, and EPA administrator should act to ensure integrity in the treatment of scientific research and end practices that impede communication between agency scientists and the public. Scientists should be able to express concerns about inappropriate political interference and push back when necessary, without fear of retaliation.

See the full report:
Interference at the EPA: Science and Politics at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

From the Union of Concerned Scientists press release:

Hundreds of EPA Scientists Report Political Interference Over Last Five Years
UCS calls for strengthened protections for federal scientists

WASHINGTON (April 23, 2008) — An investigation of the Environmental Protection Agency released today found that 889 of nearly 1,600 staff scientists reported that they experienced political interference in their work over the last five years. The study, by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), follows previous UCS investigations of the Food and Drug Administration, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and climate scientists at seven federal agencies, which also found significant administration manipulation of federal science.

“Our investigation found an agency in crisis,” said Francesca Grifo, director of UCS’s Scientific Integrity Program. “Nearly 900 EPA scientists reported political interference in their scientific work. That’s 900 too many. Distorting science to accommodate a narrow political agenda threatens our environment, our health, and our democracy itself.“…

Among the UCS report’s top findings:…
– 394 scientists (31 percent) personally experienced frequent or occasional “statements by EPA officials that misrepresent scientists’ findings.”
– 285 scientists (22 percent) said they frequently or occasionally personally experienced “selective or incomplete use of data to justify a specific regulatory outcome.”
– 224 scientists (17 percent) said they had been “directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information from an EPA scientific document.”
– Of the 969 agency veterans with more than 10 years of EPA experience, 409 scientists (43 percent) said interference has occurred more often in the past five years than in the previous five-year period. Only 43 scientists (4 percent) said interference occurred less often.
– Hundreds of scientists reported being unable to openly express concerns about the EPA’s work without fear of retaliation; 492 (31 percent) felt they could not speak candidly within the agency and 382 (24 percent) felt they could not do so outside the agency….

Seven-hundred-eighty-three respondents (51 percent) said EPA policies do not let scientists speak freely to the news media about their findings….

See our earlier posts:

March 27, 2007: GAP issues in-depth report on political interference at climate science research agencies

Full text of Government Accountability Project report,
Redacting the Science of Climate Change: An Investigative and Synthesis Report
By Tarek Maassarani, Government Accountability Project
With contributions from Jay Dyckman, National Coalition Against Censorship
(Government Accountability Project, Washington, DC, March 2007)

January 30, 2007: Investigation Documents Political Interference with Climate Science Communication (An investigative report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Government Accountability Project (GAP) has uncovered new evidence of widespread political interference in federal climate science.)

Full text of Atmosphere of Pressure: Political Interference in Federal Climate Science
A Report of the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Government Accountability Project, January 2007

February 22, 2008: House Science Committee chairman questions White House delay on federal science integrity principles

November 7, 2007: Legal deadline today for White House to issue federal science communication principles

 

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