File under: No shocker.
A new Union of Concerned Scientists survey of Environmental Protection Agency staff scientists found that 60% reported political interference in their work during the last five years. Others witnessed political appointees misstating scientific results, or selectively choosing which results to discuss so as to support political decisions. The intrusion was greatest in those corners of the agency that surprise! write new regulations or conduct the risk assessments that justify new regulations.
It's no shock. Previous investigations have found the same basic picture at every other federal agency investigated, from the FDA and NASA to NOAA and the Fish and Wildlife Service. A chorus of scientists has expressed dismay at the disrespect science gets under the Bush Administration. And EPA staff have repeatedly been overruled by their political masters when it comes to a wide range of decisions, from how best to regulate mercury and how much smog is too much to whether the EPA can or should regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.
"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."
Even if it's not a shock, it's an outrage.
Here's the whole cynical breakdown of the sad report, in the words of the Union of Concerned Scientists. (Note that not all respondents answered all questions, so response percentages are derived from different total respondents.)
889 (60%) scientists said they had personally experienced at least one instance of political interference in their work over the last five years.
783 (51%) said EPA policies do not let scientists speak freely to the news media about their findings. Scientists also shared anecdotes about being barred from presenting their research at conferences and their difficulties clearing research publication articles with EPA managers.
492 (31%) felt they could not speak candidly within the agency about concerns about the EPA's work without fear of retribution, and 382 (24 percent) felt they could not do so outside the agency.
409 (43%) of the 969 agency veterans with more than 10 years of EPA experience, said interference has occurred more often in the past five years than in the previous five-year period. Only 43 scientists (4%) said interference occurred less often.
394 (31%) scientists personally experienced frequent or occasional "statements by EPA officials that misrepresent scientists' findings."
285 (22%) scientists said they frequently or occasionally personally experienced "selective or incomplete use of data to justify a specific regulatory outcome."
224 (17%) scientists said they had been "directed to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information from an EPA scientific document."
Nearly 100 scientists identified the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as the primary culprit. In scientists' responses to an essay question, "How could the integrity of scientific work produced by the EPA best be improved?," OMB took center stage.
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