Environmental Protection Agency

Is Trump's EPA Seeking To Gut Good Science?

Congress wants to know if the agency is strengthening transparency or silencing science.

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"The Trump administration is preparing to significantly limit the scientific and medical research that the government can use to determine public health regulations, overriding protests from scientists and physicians who say the new rule would undermine the scientific underpinnings of government policymaking," The New York Times reported Tuesday. The article, based on a leaked preliminary draft supplemental notice of proposed rule-making, provoked a spate of denunciations.

"Let's call this what it is: an excuse to abandon clean air, clean water, and chemical safety rules," asserted a statement issued by Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. In her opening statement at a hearing today, entitled "Strengthening Transparency or Silencing Science," House of Representatives Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D–Texas) declared, "The requirement for data to be publicly available is nothing more than an attempt to undercut EPA's mandate to use the best available science. I believe this is part of an effort to destroy regulations that protect public health but are opposed by some regulated industries."

The draft notice is intended to supplement the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science Rule, published in the Federal Register last April. The draft states the proposed regulation is aimed at "ensur[ing] data and models underlying science that is pivotal to EPA's significant regulatory decisions are publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent validation and analysis." Among other things, the supplement attempts to clarify the meaning of various terms in the original proposed regulation.

Critics were particularly alarmed by the Times' interpretation that the new proposed regulations governing which scientific studies the EPA could use would be retroactively applied. In a press release today, the EPA asserts this claim is"completely false" and stresses that the draft cited by the Times' is not the one actually undergoing pre-publication interagency review by the Office of Management and Budget.

Back in 2015, I reported on the passage of the Secret Science Reform Act by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. That bill similarly sought to limit the agency, in devising its regulations, to using scientific studies whose data are publicly available. As I observed then, "I do not doubt the cynical motives of some supporters of this bill, but I also do not doubt the equally cynical motives of its opponents." Lamentably, the same situation applies to these proposed regulations.

"We are increasingly aware that researchers are not immune from selecting certain results which appear to support their hypothesis, and this may be especially true when the research has important policy implications," notes Albert Einstein College of Medicine epidemiologist Geoffrey Kabat in an email. "For these reasons, the data from studies that are the basis for formulating regulations should be available to the research community for independent re-analysis.  This should not be regarded as some extreme demand – it should be a matter of course."

Kabat continues, "But it's crucial to add a caveat—the science regarding the health effects of air pollution and similar questions is difficult enough to get right without compounding the difficulties by allowing the science to be hijacked by politics – from either the Right or the Left."

Surely everyone can agree that open science should be the default ​for research plans, data, materials, code, and outcomes for all science, not just science used by Federal regulatory agencies.

NEXT: Joe Biden Has Officially Joined the Misguided Crusade Against Online Free Speech

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  1. “Is Trump’s EPA Seeking To Gut Good Science?”

    The question may be more about using science to regulate people than an opposition to science itself.

    Is @Reason going to set a border here ?

    1. The question may be more about using science to regulate people than an opposition to science itself.

      Well, it’s a question about using “science” to regulate people, and 98% of all scientists agree that if you question the science you’re a science denier and there should be a law to prevent you spreading your dangerous fake news science-denying bullshit around where uninformed people might actually be suckered into believing there’s some sort of controversy on the issue when the science is in fact settled. Global warming is real and vaping is just as dangerous as smoking and vaccines do not cause autism and we’d all be healthier if we ate less fat and more carbs – all of these things are just scientific facts.

      1. Do 97% of science denlers agree “Vaping is just as dangerous as smoking”?

        The jury is still out because it’s a two pipe problem.

      2. Global warming is real and vaping is just as dangerous as smoking and vaccines do not cause autism and we’d all be healthier if we ate less fat and more carbs – all of these things are just scientific facts.

        25% correct. Vaccines do not cause autism. The rest is bs.

      3. It’s about the EPA buying ‘science’ that supports it’s preferred policy position.

  2. Well, at face value, this actually seems like a good idea. If the state is going to be making regulatory decisions, the basis for those decisions should be publicly available.

    1. Right you are, racebaiterjeff!

    2. That’s the way I read it.

      I would not want the government to declare new policy based on a study whose data and methodology are not available to everyone affected for their own review. If that means that some “secret” studies are tossed in the trash – GREAT! Studies with manipulated data and tortured conclusions don’t get used – at least not without being subject to public scrutiny.

      The alternative is something like Nancy Pelosi’s admonition that we have to “pass it to see what’s in it”.

      The Kellerman “research” on gun violence comes to mind as a particularly egregious example of fake science that anti-gun forces have long cited as “evidence”. Kellerman came to the conclusion that a person was 43 times more likely to be killed by a gun in their home than to successfully defend themselves. How he reached this conclusion involved a whole slew of unsupportable methods. For example, a gun owner hadn’t successfully “defended” himself unless the attacker was shot dead. Wounding them, holding them at gunpoint or driving them away didn’t count. “Family” members included anyone previously met. So two people involved in a second drug buy qualified, and a shootout over drugs was chalked up to a gun being “in the home”. Kellerman also used disparate populations for comparisons which had substantial and important demographic variations – something like comparing the “choice” of vocation for a small town versus a group of people in prison. ONLY by exposing the methodology was this report discredited – but its conclusion is STILL cited! Such is the power of BAD science!

    3. Do you know what an impact that would have on a lot of what government tell us is for our own good?
      As an example; actual testing of the air in an enclosed area, like a home, with a pack-a-day smoker, results in a “second-hand smoke” exposure, the equivalent of two cigarettes a year.
      Where would that put all those “second-hand smoke” warnings?

  3. Surely everyone can agree that open science should be the default ​for research plans, data, materials, code, and outcomes for all science, not just science used by Federal regulatory agencies.

    Au contraire, mon frère (But I’m sure you knew this.)

    A second concern held by some is that a new class of research person will emerge — people who had nothing to do with the design and execution of the study but use another group’s data for their own ends, possibly stealing from the research productivity planned by the data gatherers, or even use the data to try to disprove what the original investigators had posited. There is concern among some front-line researchers that the system will be taken over by what some researchers have characterized as “research parasites.”

    That’s right, the New England Journal of Medicine supports keeping research data secret if critics are just wanting to get their hands on that research data to try to criticize your claims about your research – a process otherwise known as “sciencing”.

    1. LOL we can’t share data because what if people think we are wrong

      1. Worse, *prove* that we are wrong with our own data!

        1. Well, it’s a realistic fear, it’s been happening. Disturbingly often in climate science, which is why that’s mostly where the demand for opacity is centered.

          1. NO! Climate Change is REAL! Algore was RIGHT! All the ice in the Arctic melted FIVE YEARS AGO! ALL THE POLAR BEARS DIED! And the world is going to end before your newborn gets to vote!

            Alexandria Ocasio Cortez Death Clock
            According to AOC, The WORLD will end in:
            11 years
            2 months
            6 days
            3 hours
            14 minutes, and
            37 seconds.

    2. Isn’t this what peer review is all about? Opening up your research for viewing so people can examine it and make sure it’s valid? I guess the NEJM is only interested in peer reviews from those inside the echo chamber. God forbid someone look at things from another angle.

      1. Peer review is one step.

        Any science can not prove anything. It can only be disproven.

        Simple physics can describe a basketball shot into a hoop.

        Yet that is not the whole story. The pure joy of hitting it in the hoop needs no science.

        1. Wrong. Science never disproves anything either. You never accept the mill hypothesis, in other words you don’t disprove the hypothesis. In fact, when testing a hypothesis, you are simply trying to see if your explanation is more likely than pure randomness. Science is about providing an explanation not proving anything. If your explanation, after rigorous testing and repeated testing is better than pure randomness then it is accepted. But it can always be refined by others or even contradicted by others. Often contradiction helps to clarify the explanation. Scientist don’t talk about proving anything, that is a layman’s term and one used by people who don’t understand science.

          1. That is true enough. A theory is still a theory even if there is evidence to contradict it.

            1. … and if the data behind the theory is publicly available, anyone who can ‘scientifically’ or accurately find holes in the data or manipulation of the data, etc., make it much more feasible to weed out the ‘lousy theories based on bad data…’ too.

              And, as for vaping, weren’t most of the deaths or injuries NOT the result of simply vaping alone, but other inputs on top of the vaping?

              …. just asking for a friend… [not].

      2. The bureaucrats want to keep their decision making process from the prying eyes of the serfs.

      3. “Isn’t this what peer review is all about?”

        It is what peer review is supposed to be about. But, as numerous scandals and retractions have shown, that is not what peer review actually is.

    3. I thought that was called “peer review”.

      1. It’s still peer review when your peers make the same mistakes as you.

      2. Technocrats dont consider average Americans their peers.

        1. ah.. the ‘peers’ examining the publicly-available source data, for the most part, won’t be “average Americans.”
          Those A-A’s won’t look or care, but many people well-versed in science, math, physics and engineering just might poke holes where the original ‘theorists’ and ‘conclusin-drawers’ don’t want holes poked.
          The chances of disproving lousy theories is, imnsho, much more valuable than the alternatives!

    4. Science is about testing a hypothesis and reproducibility getting the same result. Without the data the results can neither be tested nor reproduced, hence fake science.

      1. +1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

    5. Sounds like we need a section 230, the first amendment of the internet, for science. So, when two people publish the exact same set of words, the publisher selective information system services provider, with permission from congress, gets to pick and choose who’s right and who’s not, based not on the message, but whether the speaker is on the right team.

    6. So we need to keep the data secret in order to prevent peer review? That seems wise.

  4. Cynical me, not knowing much about this, suspects that anything which tightens scientific definitions is for the better, especially considering how loose the “science” is behind banning vaping and boosting climate alarmism. CO2 as a pollutant? Flavored vaping lumped in with black market content of unknown origin?

    Anything which cuts down on that shit is good.

    1. If the numbers are not public, a regulation based on it amounts to “a guy in a lab coat says this is true based on numbers you can’t see and as a result you can no longer do something you would like to do”.

      Yeah, that sounds legit.

      1. If the numbers aren’t public what the scientist says is just hearsay

      2. Having actually worked in a publicly funded lab, I can tell you that proprietary data doesn’t just frustrate regular folks. I’d love if NIH/NSF grants required their recipients to make their data public – it would’ve saved me a lot of work trying to replicate junk science. But even if it’s just the regulatory stuff (nothing I worked with personally) it’d still be a small benefit to the scientific community. Well, to the scientists at least, at the expense of the grifters I suppose.

    2. A lot of the requests to open the data come from various scandals in air pollution from questionable use of nano particulates as an example. Here is one controversial study from likely fabricated data.

      https://dailycaller.com/2017/08/07/exclusive-researcher-claims-to-have-evidence-one-of-epas-most-successful-clean-air-rules-is-based-on-fabricated-data/

      There are many other examples, why Trumps EPA is seeking to open all data. The word thing is that real science doesnt crumble when observed, despite the leftists protestations.

      1. Here is one controversial study from likely fabricated data.

        Hilariously, the story actually focuses on two (or more) studies containing possibly fabricated data. One used suspect data and, as such, was being called into question so they did another study and it agreed with the first. Being more rigorous and thorough with the second study, it’s more clear that it was indeed fabricated.

  5. I must have missed the part where people were free to do scientific research without taxpayer money.

    1. Research is expensive. There’s a natural and perfectly reasonable suspicion that your research might be biased a wee bit in favor of your patron if you have to rely on a funding source. Fortunately, government money is free money so there’s no possible reason to suspect government researchers might be biased in favor of coming up with results favorable to government.

      1. It’s a bizarre assumption that I heard many times in academia. Why would government necessarily be impartial? Or, on many otherwise apolitical topics, why would a committee of people who have received grants give one to a person who proves them wrong?

        1. Government is impartial because it’s the People. It’s US! The ones who can’t be trusted are those who are seeking profits. Everyone knows this. Duh.

        2. Should have learned about bias after the second year. After which you stopped needing “teachers”. Did that not happen?

        3. Interestingly, a lot of times your grant committee is perfectly happy to renew your money if your results contradict theirs as long as you cited them enough. It’s usually best to frame your results as “building on the pioneering work of” rather than “in direct contravention to the harebrained theories of” but that’s probably apparent.

      2. ‘Skids.. if you really meant “Fortunately, government money is free money so there’s no possible reason to suspect government researchers might be biased in favor of coming up with results favorable to government.” I’m sorry for your vivid imagination and loose grip on human traits and reality.

        If you were kidding, please add “/sarc” at the end or type in “ironic or sarcastic font,” ok?
        thanks.

    2. Privately-funded science is illegitimate.

      1. Privately funded science can’t be trusted because it is in search of profits. Only science funded by people who use force can be trusted, because their motives are pure.

      2. Funny. I assume that is a sarc.

  6. The requirement for data to be publicly available is nothing more than an attempt to undercut EPA’s mandate to use the best available science.

    ??? Why is the best available science secret?

    1. Because otherwise even more people might doubt global warming/climate change/Greta Thunberg worship than already do.

    2. Because only hiding it from you lets them maintain the illusion that it’s the best available science.

    3. Sometimes “best available” is a long way from good. When data is proprietary it’s easier to hide beneath the cloak of a respectable institution and a mid-tier journal publication.

  7. Surely everyone can agree that open science should be the default ​for research plans, data, materials, code, and outcomes for all science, not just science used by Federal regulatory agencies.

    So your motives are cynical then.

  8. Oh no, Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists is going to lose some funding and will have to find a real job!
    Whatever will she do?

  9. the EPA asserts this claim is”completely false” and stresses that the draft cited by the Times’ is not the one actually undergoing pre-publication interagency review

    It’s tough to take seriously anything the EPA says until they lose that ridiculous logo.

  10. If the data isn’t available then it’s implausible that the research was rigorously scrutinized, and if no one actively tried to prove it wrong then it wasn’t science.

    Science is a process to prove things wrong in a reliable manner. That’s why science can never prove anything right, it can only result it not-yet-disproven.

    That’s why things like Newtonian physics exists – it’s highly accurate unless you’re crossing a gravity gradient (either really fast, really far, or really big), but we know it’s wrong and still teach it – because for most purposes it’s good enough and general relativity is much more complicated.

    But what’s getting preached now (and for the past few decades) hasn’t been science, it’s been Scientism – the religion birthed from science. Anyone arguing for limiting efforts to disprove research is arguing against science, and for a religious belief in their white robed priests.

    1. As I’ve heard it put:

      Scientific progress is not replacing a theory that’s wrong with a theory that’s right. It’s replacing a theory that’s wrong with a theory that’s more subtly wrong.

      1. Well, harder to prove wrong; There’s always the theoretical possibility that you lucked into dreaming up a theory that was true in some absolute sense. It’s just that you can never be confident that you’ve done that, the most you can be sure of is that you haven’t yet proven your theory wrong.

    2. Amen, brother.

  11. “I’ve got data that says you’re all going to die unless you give me trillions of dollars. Really, I do, but it’s super secret data.”

  12. After Both Sidesing the article all the way through, Bailey finally gets around to the good science, good government position:

    Surely everyone can agree that open science should be the default ​for research plans, data, materials, code, and outcomes for all science, not just science used by Federal regulatory agencies.

    1. Meanwhile, Ron leads with:
      Is Trump’s EPA Seeking To Gut Good Science?
      Congress wants to know if the agency is strengthening transparency or silencing science.

      i.e.,
      Is Trump roasting babies and eating them? The angels in Congress want to know.

      When Ron finally fully commits to the New Woke Reason, it’s the last paragraph of sanity and decency which will disappear from his articles, not all the preceding propaganda.

      1. There ought to be a modest proposal for law against baby shaped beyond burgers.

      2. He’s whoring clickbait, which is the KMW way. Ever since KMW took over it’s all about the clicks, and ads in everything. Reason needs money to survive and this is how they do it. Their fat cat sponsors are dying off.

        The ugly underside of capitalism.

        1. The ugly underside of alienating entire swathes of potential audience.

          1. Remember Howard Cosell? Many people hated him, but watched him anyway. Same here. There may be fewer comments/clicks since the Glibs left, but she’s growing the audience.

            You’re here.

  13. Why does no one ever question exactly why people of a certain political view actually want dirty air or dirty water? Do they have a private supply of atmosphere? It’s like when they used to say some politician or other wanted grandmas to starve. Really? Even their own grandma?

    It works on the other side, too. For example, I doubt Warren, dumb as she is, actually hopes all the very rich will pack up and leave or just to stop producing a lot and take a regular low-level schlub job the rest of their lives like nearly everyone else. If nothing else, that will mean she can’t extract more taxes from them.

    It’s more an issue of not being able to predict any unintended consequences. Politicians of every sort are congenitally blind to unintended consequences. That’s why they need to be reined in or slapped down.

    As for scientists, if they say they can’t be questioned, they are not real scientists. That’s not how science works. If it was, we’d still believe in a geocentric solar system, the aether, and a top survivable speed of about 40mph.

    1. What? You mean we can’t bottle phlogiston??

  14. “Good Science”???? You mean that stuff they keep saying is fact yet time and time again PROVES to never happen. Or are they talking about that “Good Science” that will down right contradict itself by the end of the month???

    Politicians and politician-funded lobbying groups such as the Center for Science and Democracy ( who gets 80% of it’s operating costs from government grant money ) has made a complete JOKE of science and now the only thing left believable either comes from the free-market (corporations that actually CREATE a devices from their TRUE science) or only what can be proven on a personal basis.

    Its sad really what activists have done with the reputation of “science”.

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