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Defending Science

Deborah Swackhamer gave testimony in front of a hostile congressional committee, which was calling into question the validity of EPA science. Her task was to highlight the importance of the Chartered Science Advisory Board for the U.S. EPA before the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee of the House.

The Subcommittee focused on whether scientific findings presented by the EPA or affiliated experts were actually valid and attacked the credibility of board members. Witness Dr. Stanley Young gave examples of bad data and manipulated statistics as a reason not to trust science in the formation of policy. Members of the committee and other panelists also called for more general review of scientific data. Another area of concern was that EPA staff has direct access to the reviewers on the Science Advisory Board, leading to possible conflicts of interest (typically peer reviewers are anonymous). Members of the Science Advisory Board were also criticized for potential conflicts of interests, both in funding they receive and previous advocacy for or against issues they would be advising the EPA on.

Swackhamer defended the quality of science in the agency. She pointed to the importance of integrating science with decision making, using a process recommended by the National Academies of Science. She also promoted the benefit of ensuring scientific leadership across the agency. Swackhamer agreed that data should be made publically available, but that before that occurred, data itself should be quality assured by the scientific community. She also gave examples of how members of the Science Advisory Board recused themselves when there were possible conflicts of interest and that the Board has a rigorous process to look at conflict of interests. Supportive members of the committee also pointed to the fact that key studies are replicated and held to a very high standard of review.

Her archived testimony will be posted shortly.

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs
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