Washington, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has surveyed what it considers to be “influential” news editors to assess their “awareness of and opinions about EPA’s scientific research program,” according to a copy of the questionnaire released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). EPA is trying to determine whether editors think the agency’s scientific pronouncements have been compromised by politics.

The survey, distributed this past November by JDG Communications, Inc., a public relations firm based in Falls Church, Virginia under contract to EPA, consisted of 15 questions, including—

  • “Do you feel that U.S. environmental policy is influenced more by political interest or research findings?”
  • “When you receive information from EPA, do you think there is research behind this information?” and
  • Asking editors to compare the scientific credibility of EPA against other entities, such as the National Science Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health.

“To measure its scientific credibility shouldn’t EPA be surveying scientists rather than journalists?” asked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing to EPA’s internal surveys of its scientists raising troubling questions about the competence and integrity of scientific decision-making. PEER had to sue the agency this past spring to force the release of the survey results. “If EPA was not in fact altering its science to suit Bush administration politics, this survey would be utterly unnecessary.”

This public relations effort is part of an aggressive multi-year “branding” campaign (called “Science for You”) designed to enhance EPA’s public image. This public relations campaign also coincides with several major revisions in the agency’s scientific policies and practices. This week, for example, the Bush administration ordered a “top-to-bottom review” of the scientific process for establishing safe levels of air pollutants. Later this month, the Bush administration will unveil a new policy to authorize widespread use of experiments on human subjects to replace extensive animal testing of chemicals.

JDG Communications, touting its ironic slogan “Strategic Marketing by Design,” is preparing a report for EPA summarizing what the firm calls “benchmarking research.”

“To the Bush administration, everything is about spin over substance; this particular effort is to figure how much spin will compensate for lack of substance,” added Ruch. “EPA’s scarce research dollars should be shielded from raids by public relations firms.”


Read the EPA survey of news editors on its scientific credibility

Look at the broader EPA public relations effort called “Science for You”

See EPA’s internal surveys of its scientists on scientific policies and practices

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