HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Allowing Public Scrutiny of Science

Over two years ago, when President Obama eased restrictions on stem cell research, the President urged researchers in all areas to “follow science and not ideology,” reported here. One of the only ways the public can be assured this is happening is if scientists are allowed to talk freely to reporters about their work — without approval or chaperones from the public affairs office. That is one of the reasons agency policies need to undergo scrutiny.

This month, The Environmental Protection Agency released its draft scientific integrity policy. According to a report by the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ), the policy is troubling.  SEJ contends that “the policy leaves political appointees with dominant authority for message control,” and contains ambiguous wording that “may mean scientists must get permission before talking to a reporter,” and that reporters "might not be allowed to talk to the specific scientist they ask to interview.”  The policy was also criticized in a comment letter by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility as leaving whistle blowing scientists vulnerable to official reprisal.


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