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Policy

Transparency Is A Good Thing

April 28, 2014 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 92, ISSUE 17

Regarding “For Transparency’s Sake,” I see H.R. 4012 as a good thing overall (C&EN, Feb. 24, page 28). Given events over the past several years, it has become increasingly clear that there are multiple standards for “transparency.” The environment is an omnipotent yet fragile force that can affect the lives of everyone around the world. As such, we should not put our trust in black-box scientific results.

The article speaks of “patient privacy rules,” but it is my understanding that, in order to have a patent, detailed disclosure is required so anyone can verify its claims. Software patents protect the methodology that the code uses to attain a result, and a copyright can protect the duplication of the code itself. With these protections in place, I see no problem with full disclosure.

It is surprising that Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) proclaims that secret data or secret software is “valuable” and the “best available science to inform regulatory actions” when she and the rest of us do not and cannot know how the results are attained. I am equally surprised that the Environmental Protection Agency had been making policy since 1990 based on two key studies that weren’t available for scrutiny. So on what basis do we make policy decisions? On the words of a few researchers?

How about we just accept the words of researchers from pharmaceutical companies instead of requiring proof of drug safety and efficacy before approval? The Food & Drug Administration requires complete information disclosure of all clinical subjects for drug approvals. EPA can require the same for the studies on which its policies are based. EPA can easily code subject identity of any study for the purposes of public disclosure.

Whoever owns the modeling software leased (no doubt at a high price) to EPA should get a patent and a copyright and release the information required for public transparency. I want to know why I should trust their model, especially if it affects the environment. Frankly, I don’t trust politicians or agencies that do not care to know the workings behind the science from which they make policy.

Pete Nirchio
Lebanon, N.J.

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