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US EPA needs to do more to uphold scientific integrity, internal watchdog says

by Cheryl Hogue
May 21, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 20


A woman wearing gloves, glasses, and a lab coat filters water in separatory funnels.
Credit: EPA
An EPA researcher filters Great Lakes water samples aboard the research vessel Lake Guardian.

The US Environmental Protection Agency needs to do more to champion its policy on scientific integrity, the EPA’s independent watchdog says. In a report based on a 2018 survey of agency staff members, the EPA Office of Inspector General finds more than half of the respondents dissatisfied with how the agency releases scientific information to the public. Respondents said that information was not released in a timely fashion and that EPA leaders interfered with or suppressed its release, possibly because of political or industry influence, according to the report. The survey also says most respondents were satisfied with peer review and advice from external advisory committees. Most were dissatisfied with the EPA’s management of those advisory panels, however, citing 2017 changes on who can serve on them—changes recently thrown out by a federal court. Hundreds of respondents indicated that they had experienced but didn’t report possible violations of the scientific integrity policy, saying they feared retaliation, believed that reporting would make no difference, or perceived agency leaders would interfere.


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