For Immediate Release: Wednesday, July 28, 2021
Contact: Tim Whitehouse, 202-265-7337: Kirsten Stade firstname.lastname@example.org
Reform Task Force Ignores Burgeoning Scientific Scandals
Scientific Integrity Review Eschews Scientist Interviews and Case Analyses
Washington, DC — The public comment period for President Biden’s Scientific Integrity Task Force ends this week with no engagement on fundamental issues, according to comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Even as scandals engulf the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s chemical and pesticide programs, the Task Force has greatly limited public input and declined to examine failures within its own leadership.
In one of his first acts, President Biden created a Task Force to fix scientific integrity safeguards that failed badly during the Trump years. The 45-member group consists largely of officials who oversaw the ineffectual policies they are charged with reforming and has no members from outside the federal government.
Finishing its first stage in which it was supposed to reach out to “stakeholders and the public,” the Task Force has significantly curtailed the input it chooses to receive by –
- Explicitly discouraging submission of any “reports on alleged offenses that are in violation of Federal scientific integrity policies” even though the Biden charter directs it to conduct “an analysis of any instances in which existing scientific-integrity policies have not been followed or enforced;”
- Declining to interview any scientists whose work has been manipulated or suppressed and/or who have dealt with the existing scientific integrity processes; and
- Limiting input from any individual or organization to one submission that “must not exceed 7 pages in 12-point or larger font, with a page number provided on each page.”
“To address the decline of scientific integrity in the federal government, this Task Force needs to examine instances in which scientific integrity policies failed to stop the political manipulation of science,” stated PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse. “Apparently, the Task Force does not perceive the issues before it as complex enough to require in-depth analysis or evidence of how past cases were actually handled.”
This review process is taking place against the backdrop of mushrooming scandals fueled by a growing cadre of EPA scientists coming forward to document how assessments of pesticides and industrial chemicals have been and are still routinely watered down by managers to the detriment of worker safety and public health.
“The Task Force is enmeshed in the basic conflict of evaluating the conduct of its own member agencies,” added Whitehouse, a former EPA enforcement attorney. “Lack of independent review violates the basic principles of scientific integrity the Task Force is supposed to uphold.”
Notably, the Task Force outreach effort ends this week with three “public listening sessions” on relatively non-controversial subjects such as science and education. While the Task Force will allow “comment on the predominant challenges they perceive to scientific integrity in Federal agencies” none of those “predominant challenges” will be the subject of any planned interactions with scientists or the public.
Today, PEER is conducting an open webinar about the mounting accounts of EPA scientists detailing severe manipulation of scientific safeguards by agency managers.