31 October 2017
In a disappointing move this afternoon, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt confirmed his plan to disallow EPA grantees from serving on scientific advisory panels. This forces highly qualified scientists to choose between pursuing their science or serving on the Science Advisory Board (SAB) and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), undermining the ability of the EPA to fulfill its purpose to ensure “that all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn, and work.”
CASAC is focused on air quality and standards as directed by the Clean Air Act, while SAB is charged with ensuring the quality of science across the agency.
Pruitt’s new policy asserts that panel members who receive EPA grant funding for their research could have a conflict of interest, thus coloring the advice they give. AGU takes strong issue with the assertion that the independence, transparency, and objectivity of the scientists who receive federal grants is compromised. Science has one agenda: to advance the body of scientific knowledge. The principles and practices that protect the integrity of science are well defined through the scientific method and the peer-review process. All federal grant recipients must pass a thorough merit review, proving their high standards in professionalism and ethics. Further, all EPA grant applicants must formally declare that there is no conflict of interest posed by receiving such awards.
EPA’s decisions have real implications for the health and well-being of Americans and in some cases people worldwide. By curtailing the input of some of the most respected minds in science, Pruitt’s decision robs the agency, and by extension Americans, of a critically important resource.
To accomplish its mission, it is imperative that the EPA receive the best available scientific counsel, which must include expert scientists drawn from industry, academia, NGOs, and government – an exchange between these groups is the best way to move forward and protect safety, health and security.
Editor’s note: If you’d like to write the EPA with your concerns, we’ve made it easy to send a letter from our Policy Action Center.