Politics and environmental health

The influence of ideology over science has become an increasingly disturbing trend. The Center for Survey Statistics & Methodology at Iowa State University has conducted a survey of the extent of political interference in science at the Environmental Protection Agency. The findings were recently released by the Union of Concerned Scientists, and can be viewed at Interference at the EPA. Examples of interference included not only pressure to change findings that were not politically correct, but editing of documents by non-scientists, delayed release of reports, blocking research from being presented or published, and ignoring expert advice from advisory committees when making policy decisions. The report included a call for solutions in five areas, including protection of EPA scientists from retaliation, instituting a transparency policy, reform of regulatory processes that currently allow for interference, better use of scientific expertise in policy development, and depoliticizing the processes of funding, monitoring, and enforcement.

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One Response

  1. The conflicts that we are seeing between ideology and science (among many scientific disciplines) are not new. At times the difference may result from uninformed individuals; however, it can also be due to a deliberate intent. The Union of Concerned Scientists raises valid and important issues. The “interferences,” particularly at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are frightening.

    Perhaps scientists at our federal (and perhaps state) agencies need some form of “tenure” (such as seen in academia) to protect their science.

    Stephenson (1997) said it nicely in suggesting that we need a “…political ecology within an ethical framework.”

    Stephenson, P. H. (1997). Environmental Health Perspectives on the Consequences of an Ideology of Control in “Natural” Systems. Canadian Review of Sociology & Anthropology, 34(3), 349.

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