Washington, D.C. — The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) today issued recommendations designed to help the White House implement President Obama’s newly announced Scientific Integrity Memorandum. Under the Memorandum, the Office of Science and Technology Policy has 120 days to develop guidelines to protect the integrity of science and to improve the use of science in policymaking.
The recommendations are the first product from a thirteen-member panel of experts brought together by the BPC for its Science for Policy Project. The bipartisan panel, which met for the first time in January, is developing ways to improve the use of science in regulatory policy. The recommendations are available for download here. A final report will be issued early this summer.
The panel, which is chaired by Donald Kennedy, the former editor of the journal Science, and former Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, who was chairman of the House Science Committee, comprises a wide range of experts with experience in business, academia, government and non-profits. Members span the ideological spectrum and include John Graham, former head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under President George W. Bush, and Kevin Knobloch, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists. (A full list of members is below.) The project is being directed by David Goldston, who was chief of staff of the House Science Committee from 2001 through 2006.
The report’s premise is that “a critical goal of any new procedures for establishing regulatory policy must be to clarify which aspects of a regulatory issue are matters of science and which are matters of policy,” such as economics and ethics. “The tendency, on all sides, to frame regulatory issues as debates solely about science, regardless of the actual subject in dispute, is at the root of the stalemate and acrimony all too present in the regulatory system today.”
The panel’s recommendations include the following:
- Federal regulatory documents should spell out “which aspects of disputes are truly about scientific results and which concern policy.” The report suggests that this might be done by agencies describing “what additional science would change the debate over a proposed regulatory policy and in what ways” the debate would change.
- Federal agencies should make frequent use of scientific advisory panels made up solely of scientific experts.
- Scientific advisory panels “should not be asked to recommend specific policies. Rather, they should be empanelled to reach conclusions about the science that would guide a policy decision.” Separate advisory panels, which should include scientific experts, can advise on policy questions.
- Federal agencies should use more open processes for naming advisory committee members that could allow for public comment, in part, to uncover conflicts-of-interest potential advisors may have.
- The federal government should issue clearer, more consistent policies on conflict-of-interest.
- When federal agencies or advisory committees review scientific literature, “not all studies should be given equal weight in surveying a field.”
- Policymakers “should be wary of conclusions about risk that are expressed as a single number.”
The report, which was written before the Presidential Memorandum became public, echoes some of the language in that document, stating, for example, “Political decision-makers should never dictate what scientific studies should conclude, and they should base policy on a thorough review of all relevant research and the provisions of the relevant statutes.” It also calls for greater transparency in the use of science in decision-making.
Members of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Science for Policy Project:
HON. SHERWOOD BOEHLERT (co-chair): The Accord Group*
DONALD KENNEDY (co-chair): Stanford University
ARTHUR CAPLAN: University of Pennsylvania
LINDA J. FISHER: E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company
LYNN R. GOLDMAN: Johns Hopkins University
JOHN D. GRAHAM: Indiana University
DANIEL GREENBAUM: Health Effects Institute
MICHAEL P. HOLSAPPLE: ILSI Health and Environmental Sciences Institute
KEVIN KNOBLOCH: Union of Concerned Scientists
KENNETH OLDEN: City University of New York
ROGER A. PIELKE, JR.: University of Colorado
SHERRI K. STUEWER: ExxonMobil Corporation
WENDY E. WAGNER: University of Texas
*panelist affiliations listed for identification purposes only.
Eileen McMenamin, Director of Communications