ESA voices concern about proposed changes to EPA’s use of scientific data

Wednesday April 25, 2018
For Immediate Release

The Ecological Society of America is concerned with reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a rule that would require all data from scientific studies be made public and be reproducible.

Over the past 50 years the EPA has worked to protect public health and welfare by enforcing the Clean Air Act, and by 2020, it will have prevented 230,000 early deaths. The EPA also enforces the Clean Water Act, authorized in the 1970s to keep pollution out of our water. Many EPA scientific studies, such as those that determine regulations for air and water quality, require that individuals’ data collected remain confidential to safeguard their privacy. The proposed change would jeopardize the ability of the EPA to use the best available science to make decisions affecting the air we breathe and the water we drink.

With respect to reproducibility of research, it is often impossible to repeat an experiment down to the last detail. Some scientific research is collected from real-time data such as the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill and not reproducible. Other scientific studies involve longitudinal studies that are so large and of great duration that they could not realistically be repeated. It is unclear if data from studies like these would be permitted under the proposed rule. As a result, the EPA would be prevented from using the best available science and disseminating public information in a timely fashion.

“Regulations and agency actions need to be informed by the best available science and a rigorous scientific process. Undermining the ability of federal agencies to utilize scientific studies in establishing policies would have long-term negative consequences for public health and the environment,” said ESA President Richard Pouyat.

ESA intends to submit comments in the Federal Register about the proposed rule. The Society stands ready to work with the EPA and other members of the scientific community to evaluate the unintended consequences of this proposed rule.

Author: Liza Lester

ESA's Communications Officer came on board in the fall of 2011 after a Mass Media Science and Engineering fellowship with AAAS and a doctorate in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Washington.

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