When I used to get grants from government agencies like the National Institutes of Health, nobody, including the NIH itself, ever vetted my results. Although my research was funded by the taxpayers, I was free to disseminate it through publications, which were, of course, peer-reviewed. But they weren’t reviewed by the government.
That policy, however, apparently doesn’t apply when the taxpayer-funded research is actually done by government agencies themselves—at least not in this new administration. According to The Guardian and the New York Times (both are rewrites of Associated Press Reports), as well as other venues, the Trumpsters have put into play a new policy—one that demands that all scientific results released to the public first be vetted by POLITICIANS. As the NYT reports, this hold also applies to climate-change studies (my emphasis). Now the report is a bit unclear, as it implies that only existing data be vetted, while future work might not be. But that’s not clear, either. Make of the following what you will; I suspect the report is muddled because the administration’s policy isn’t yet settled.
From the NYT (all emphases mine):
The Trump administration is scrutinizing studies and data published by scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency, while new work is under a “temporary hold” before it can be released.
The communications director for President Donald Trump’s transition team at EPA, Doug Ericksen, said Wednesday the review extends to all existing content on the federal agency’s website, including details of scientific evidence showing that the Earth’s climate is warming and man-made carbon emissions are to blame.
Ericksen clarified his earlier statements he made to The Associated Press, which reported that the Trump administration was mandating that any studies or data from EPA scientists undergo review by political appointees before they can be released to the public. He said he was speaking about existing scientific information on the EPA website that is under review by members of the Trump administration’s transition team.
He said new work by the agency’s scientists is subject to the same “temporary hold” as other kinds of public releases, which he said would likely be lifted by Friday. He said there was no mandate to subject studies or data to political review.
The Guardian notes that these restrictions aren’t a continuation of Obama-administration policy, but are new:
Former EPA staffers said on Wednesday the restrictions imposed under Trump far exceed the practices of past administrations.
Ericksen said no orders have been given to strip mention of climate change from http://www.epa.gov, adding no decisions have yet been made.
“We’re taking a look at everything on a case-by-case basis, including the web page and whether climate stuff will be taken down,” Erickson said in an interview with the Associated Press. “Obviously with a new administration coming in, the transition time, we’ll be taking a look at the web pages and the Facebook pages and everything else involved here at EPA.”
Asked specifically about scientific data collected by agency scientists, such as routine monitoring of air and water pollution, Ericksen responded, “Everything is subject to review.”
Now we all know that Trump believes that anthropogenic global warming is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese. What will the EPA do in light of that? We don’t know.
From the NYT:
Trump’s nominee for EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, said during his Senate confirmation hearing last week that he disagreed with past statements by the president alleging that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to harm U.S. economic competitiveness. But like Trump, Pruitt has a long history of publicly questioning the validity of climate science.
William K. Reilly, who was EPA administrator under Republican President George H.W. Bush, said what seems to be happening with science at the agency is “going down a very dark road.”
The EPA’s 14-page scientific integrity document, enacted during the Obama administration, describes how scientific studies were to be conducted and reviewed in the agency. It said scientific studies should eventually be communicated to the public, the media and Congress “uncompromised by political or other interference.”
The scientific integrity document expressly “prohibits managers and other Agency leadership from intimidating or coercing scientists to alter scientific data, findings or professional opinions or inappropriately influencing scientific advisory boards.” It provides ways for employees who know the science to disagree with scientific reports and policies and offers them some whistleblower protection.
Well, we’ll see if the guidelines of that document stands up. Global warming is the greatest human-produced environmental challenge faced by this planet, and if we can’t trust the government to release what its scientists and monitors find, without editing or interference, we’re in for big trouble. I’m sure that if anything funny goes on, though, the scientists at the EPA (of which many must have integrity) will leak what’s going on.
h/t: Nicole Reggia