Center for Progressive Reform

Defending Clean Science

Protecting Science and Scientists

Time and again in recent years, industry and its allies in Washington have distorted science and pressured scientists. The Bush Administration, for example, repeatedly substituted the ideological views of political appointees for the scientific assessments of agency experts, sometimes suppressing research, sometimes rewriting expert analysis.

The purpose of these anti-science efforts is almost always the same: to avoid taking needed steps to protect the environment, public health and safety. By suppressing data and scientific findings documenting the extent of climate change, for example, the Bush Administration hoped to forestall meaningful action on the issue, in an effort to protect its industry allies from the inconvenience and expense of changing their polluting ways. Similarly, by suppressing the results of scientific data about the environmental effects of their pesticides, manufacturers hope to avoid the statutory requirements of the nation’s anti-pollution laws. 

In 2008, CPR Member Scholars Rena Steinzor and Wendy Wagner, together with CPR Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz published Saving Science from Politics: Nine Essential Reforms of the Legal System (675 kb download). As its title suggests, the white paper proposes a series of practical reforms, including requiring that studies submitted to federal agencies be accompanied by disclosure of the amount of control sponsors had over the design and publication of research, ending the current practice of overly broad trade-secret claims intended to prevent disclosure of important research to the public, and strengthening the legal requirement that companies disclose information they have about the risks their products pose to public health and the environment.

The election of Barack Obama marked an important turning point in science policy.  On March 9, 2009 President Obama ordered John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a plan to “ensur[e] the highest level of integrity in all aspects of the executive branch's involvement with scientific and technological processes.” The order requested that each agency create “procedures to identify and address instances in which the scientific process or the integrity of scientific and technological information may be compromised.” The President ordered Director Holdren to deliver recommendations by mid-July 2009.  That same month, CPR Member Scholars Rena Steinzor and Wendy Wagner published an op-ed offering advice to the President and Director Holdren, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Austin American-Statesman, and the Baltimore Sun. On April 3, 2009, Steinzor and Wagner sent a letter to White House Science Advisor John Holdren making specific recommendations on how to protect science from politics in the Obama Administration.  Among their recommendations was a call for the White House to open the process of developing its science policy up for public comment.  The White House took that advice, and on May 13, Steinzor joined CPR Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz in formal comments on the policy.

Cozy Chemicals

In September 2012, CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor and Policy Analyst Waydin Radin published a white paper exposing the work of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) and Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), two industry advocacy groups that have undue influence on the regulation of toxic chemicals. The two firms specialize in a particularly insidious brand of “dirty” science by recruiting EPA experts to co-author papers and participate in policy-making workshops that are heavily biased toward manufacturer interests.  

Read about CPR Member Scholars’ work to rescue science from politics:

  • Cozying Up. Read Cozying Up: How the Manufacturers of Toxic Chemicals Seek to Co-opt Their Regulators, CPR White Paper 1211, by Rena Steinzor and Policy Analyst Wayland Radin, September 2012. Read a day-of-release blog post by Steinzor.
  • IRIS.  Read about CPR Member Scholars work to fix EPA's flagship toxicological database, the Integrated Risk Information System, or  IRIS.
  • Comments on Obama Administration Science Policy.  On May 13, 2009, after the White House formally opened the science policy development process up for public comment, CPR Member Scholar Reina Steinzor and Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz submitted formal comments, expanding on some points in the April 3 letter (see below).
  • Congressional Testimony.  On April 30, 2009, CPR President Rena Steinzor testified before the House Science and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight on clean science and regulatory issues.  Read the testimony.  Read the news release.
  • Letter to White House Science Advisor.  On April 3, 2009, CPR Member Scholars Rena Steinzor and Wendy Wagner sent a letter to White House Science Advisor John Holdren with several recommendations for protecting science from politics in the Obama Administration.  Read the letter.  Or read the news release.
  • Austin American-Statesman and Cleveland Plain Dealer Op-Ed.  Read "Rescuing Science from Politics," by CPR Member Scholars Wendy Wagner and Rena Steinzor, in the March 23, 2009 Cleveland Plain Dealer, discussing steps the Obama Administration should take to protect science in the policymaking and regulatory realms from politicization and undue corporate influence.  Also published in the Austin American-Statesman, March 23, 2009, "How to Save Science from Politics." Also in the March 30, 2009 Baltimore Sun, "Purifying Science."
  • Nine Reforms White Paper.  Read Saving Science from Politics: Nine Essential Reforms of the Legal System (675 kb download), by CPR Member Scholars Rena Steinzor and Wendy Wagner, together with CPR Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz. (CPR White Paper 805, published July 2008).  Read the news release (57 kb download).  Read the authors September 26, 2008 blog post on ACSBlog.
  • Bending Science:  The Book.  Read about Bending Science: How Special Interests Corrupt Public Health Research, by Thomas O. McGarity and Wendy Wagner, published by Harvard University Press, 2008.
  • Toxic Torts.  Read about Toxic Torts:  Toxic Torts: Science, Law and the Possibility of Justice, by Carl Cranor, published by Cambridge University Press.
  • Dallas Morning News Op-Ed.   Read “Safeguard lawsuits that potentially save lives” (36 kb download), by Thomas McGarity, published in the Dallas Morning News, May 9, 2008.
  • CPR White Paper.  Read Rena Steinzor and Matthew Shudtz's "Sequestered Science: Secrets Threatening Public Health" (273 kb download), on why government-sanctioned secrecy in science makes for bad policy, bad science, and bad public health. (CPR White Paper 703, April 2007)
  • Baltimore Sun Op-Ed.  Read "Saving Science from Politicians" (329 kb download), an op-ed by Wendy Wagner and Rena Steinzor, published September 5, 2006 in the Baltimore Sun.
  • Rescuing Science:  The Book.  In August 2006, Cambridge University Press published Rescuing Science from Politics: Regulation and the Distortion of Scientific Research,  edited by Wendy Wagner and Rena Steinzor, featuring chapter contributions from a number of CPR Member Scholars and others. The book is available from Cambridge University Press and Amazon.com.  Or read a summary of the policy solutions offered in Rescuing Science from Politics: Regulation and the Distortion of Scientific Research, edited by Wendy Wagner and Rena Steinzor, featuring chapter contributions from CPR Scholars and others. (CPR White Paper 604, August 2006).
  • A CPR Perspective.  CPR Member Scholars Rena Steinzor and Wendy Wagner have authored a CPR Perspective:  Science.

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