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Legislators Introduce Measure to Protect Integrity of Public Science

March 13, 2019, 10:02 AM HST
* Updated March 14, 8:04 AM
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U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) introduced new legislation on March 13, 2019, that would protect public scientific research and reports from the influence of political and special interests, a longstanding concern that has taken on newfound urgency under President Donald Trump, said a press release from the office of Sen. Schatz.

“These are challenging and unprecedented times for science,” said Sen. Schatz. “And while it’s not the first time it has been under attack, this time feels worse. That’s why we need to answer the call of our times and stand up for science. Our bill would protect government science from political interference. It would make data and findings off-limits for political appointees and managers, and make sure scientists follow careful processes for review.”

“Independent, rigorous scientific research is one of the most powerful tools we have for advancing the public interest and keeping the American people safe,” said Rep. Tonko. “President Trump’s multi-agency assault on environmental standards has hinged on efforts to distort, bury and even rewrite credible public scientific findings, including his absurd denial of the growing climate crisis and efforts to cover up evidence that the American people are being exposed to dangerous toxins. Protecting the integrity of that science is one of the most important ways we can hold this president and his administration accountable. Distorting or suppressing public science undermines our ability to protect the health and safety of the American people.”

The Scientific Integrity Act would help prevent undue influence over federal science by establishing uniform standards at U.S. agencies to adopt or strengthen existing scientific integrity policies. These policies exist to prevent public research and findings from being distorted or shelved for political reasons. More than 20 federal agencies have developed some form of scientific integrity policy to-date but standards remain inconsistent.

The Scientific Integrity Act would:

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• Formalize and reinforce policies that require federal agencies that conduct or fund scientific research to maintain clear scientific integrity principles;

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• Affirm that science dictates policy, and that scientific research should be free from the pressure of politics, ideology, or financial influence; and

• Hold public scientists to high standards and guarantee their rights and protections under the law.

President Trump has built a track record of distorting or suppressing science. In its first two years, the Trump Administration has buried reports on public health risks from perfluoroalkyl substances, falsified scientific claims to justify restrictions on birth control access, prohibited the Centers for Disease Control staff from using the words “evidence-based” and “science-based” in budget documents, and scrapped an EPA-recommended ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide proven to impair brain development in young children.

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“Our economy, our health and safety, and our environment all depend on independent federal scientific research and fully informed, science-based policies,”said Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The Scientific Integrity Act would protect scientists from political interference in their scientific work, and make sure that they can carry out their research and share it without fear of retaliation. Congress should pass the Scientific Integrity Act so that all presidential administrations can be held to that strong standard.”

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