"Science Integrity Act"

Doug Yanega dyanega at MONO.ICB.UFMG.BR
Sun Mar 1 16:36:46 CST 1998

Our listowner wrote:

>Is this an attempt to toss
>more obstacles into the path of environmental protections?

Aside from the inevitable increase in time and paperwork, wouldn't it
largely come down to how the following section is implemented?

>  (b) LIST OF PEER REVIEWERS- The head of each Federal department
>or agency which issues or may issue regulations supported by
>scientific data shall create, using the Federal Register,
>scientific and commercial journals, the National Academy of
>Sciences, and other similar resources, a list of individuals who
>are qualified and willing to perform peer review functions for the
>department or agency. Such list shall include only individuals who--
>      (1) by virtue of advanced education, training, or
>    avocational, academic, commercial, research, or other
>    experience, are competent to review the appropriateness of any
>    scientific methodology supporting regulations that the
>    department or agency may issue, the validity of any conclusions
>    drawn from the supporting data, and the competency of the
>    research or preparation of the scientific data;

The criteria are nebulous enough that it's easy for someone to be
considered competent, depending on how "competent" is being defined. It
should then be easy to find "at least 2 but not more than 5 individuals"
who are "competent" people with no "direct financial interest" at stake
(academic interests are another matter), who will criticize or support the
research behind *any* environmental legislation, depending on which goal
the department head prefers. Nowhere does it state that the selection
process or reviewers themselves have to be objective.
I have two questions: (1) can anyone here come up with a way to rephrase
that whole passage to ensure that it would achieve the desired goal but not
be so open to abuse? (2) do these rules would make it easier for a
department head who personally wants some piece of legislation stopped (or
facilitated) to do so, since they choose the reviewers? THAT would seem to
be the bottom line - whether this attempt to supposedly make the process
more scientific would instead make the process more political. If it's
already a rubber-stamp, then maybe this wouldn't make things any worse,
aside from a false air of legitimacy, right?


Doug Yanega    Depto. de Biologia Geral, Instituto de Ciencias Biologicas,
Univ. Fed. de Minas Gerais, Cx.P. 486, 30.161-970 Belo Horizonte, MG   BRAZIL
phone: 031-449-2579, fax: 031-441-5481  (from U.S., prefix 011-55)
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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