In an invite-only press conference, embattled head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt announced a change to EPA policy that has advocacy groups and their scientists up in arms in protest.
The ingenious move makes it policy for the EPA to only accept and rely on studies that fully publish underlying data.
The intent is to be able to honestly replicate any study that government regulators rely on for decision making.
Pruitt says that the transparency will also allow the public to “comment on the veracity, the authenticity” of the data behind the studies and therefore EPA decisions.
The reaction of the scientific community was swift with leaders saying the move will threaten patient confidentiality, for instance with air quality studies that have linked pollution to chronic illness.
However, advocacy groups and industries are notorious for paying scientists for specific outcomes.
In the 1960’s the sugar industry was caught paying scientists to play down the link between sugar and heart disease while actively shifting the blame to fats.
Even the watchdogs of scientific studies have been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. In 2001, a Fox News columnist Steven Milloy discredited an EPA study linking secondhand smoke to cancer without disclosing that he was on the payroll for Phillip Morris, pocketing $92,500.
In 2014, Science magazine published a study by a Columbia University graduate student that claimed gay political canvassers could influence a vote on same-sex marriage if they spent 20 minutes speaking with an individual. It turns out the politically-motivated study used fake data and was completely bogus.
In 2015, six professionals defected from the American Psychological Association and accused the organization of colluding with the Bush Administration to justify scientific effectiveness of torture. The APA denied the allegations.
Dangerously, Dong Pyou Han, a researcher from Iowa State University faked an AIDS-vaccine experiment by spiking rabbit blood to produce a positive outcome. Han had received nearly $20 million in federal grants and was sentenced to 57 months in prison and forced to pay back $7 million in tax payer funds.
Had those studies identified the individuals involved in the study, as the EPA’s new rules enacted by Pruitt now required, the likelihood of fraud would have been greatly diminished.
Good move or bad?