EPA’s Independent Science Advisory Board Raises Concerns over Proposed “Secret Science” Rule

May 11, 2020

by ASME.org

Since 2018, leadership at the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has entertained the idea of a new rule to limit funding studies that don’t share their underlying data with the government. This data transparency proposal—often dubbed “secret science”—has evoked criticism from the scientific community since its conception, but now the EPA’s own independent Science Advisory Board (SAB) has issued a report sharing their concerns with the proposed rule, specifically regarding the scientific and technical challenges of implementation.

In the report, the SAB writes that “this requirement could be complex and/or impractical” and that they have “concerns about the scientific and technical challenges and feasibility of implementing some requirements of the Proposed Rule.” The report goes on to list a multitude of examples of why the proposed rule would be dangerous and impractical, and damaging to scientific integrity. Furthermore, the SAB members question what constitutes “data” as defined by the proposed rule, which begs further questions of what exactly the proposed rule would restrict.

Scientist agree that independent validation does not rely on underlying data, but on the soundness of the study itself. Scientists and researchers also largely share an understanding of the need to protect underlying data in scientific studies as sometimes that data can have ethical, legal, privacy, and financial ramifications.

The Administration did offer a slight change to the proposed rule back in March that would require giving preference to studies that disclose their data publicly, but even that slight change still draws many criticism in undermining the government’s ability to unbiasedly fund worth research.

ASME will continue to tack any development on the proposed rule.

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