Honesty & Science
Your government wouldn’t lie to you, would it? Well, maybe not lie, as in tell outright blatant whoppers. No government agent would do that. But your beneficent leaders, having only in mind that which is best for you, made competent and upright by virtue of their office, wouldn’t shade the truth in the direction that increases their power just for the sake of increasing their grip and control over you. Would they?
Good question, that. Makes you wonder why the Environmental “Protection” Agency conducts so much of its work behind closed doors inside locked rooms in subterranean rooms guarded by armed agents.
Did you not know the EPA arms its agents?
The EPA tells citizens, “You don’t need to know how we got our results, just know that what we have decided is right and true and necessary. We’re experts and this is Science.”
Yet some of us are suspicious—not of the honesty of our highly paid government environmentalists; no, sir! We are suspicious that with the cataract of regulation gushing out of DC that perhaps, just perhaps, one or two slight errors might have been made. It would thus be good if citizens were allowed to see the ingredients of the secret sauce the EPA claims is healthful and nutritious, not because we doubt the honesty of the EPA chefs, but because mistakes happen.
Members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology have thus proposed H.R. 4012, better known as the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014. It’s goal: “To prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible.”
Here is almost the whole of the bill, leaving out the introduction and caution that the bill won’t trump other laws:
(b)(1) The Administrator shall not propose, finalize, or disseminate a covered action unless all scientific and technical information relied on to support such covered action is:
(A) specifically identified; and
(B) publicly available in a manner that is sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results…
(A) the term ‘covered action’ means a risk, exposure, or hazard assessment, criteria document, standard, limitation, regulation, regulatory impact analysis, or guidance; and
(B) the term ‘scientific and technical information’ includes—
(i) materials, data, and associated protocols necessary to understand, assess, and extend conclusions;
(ii) computer codes and models involved in the creation and analysis of such information;
(iii) recorded factual materials; and
(iv) detailed descriptions of how to access and use such information.
One might say, and say truthfully, that this bill encapsulates the scientific method itself. Yet the reaction will be, as it always is when challenging self-knighted experts, how dare you.
A good guess is that they’ll also say, “If we are forced to show people our work, it will slow down the process.” They will think this is a criticism. They won’t understand that they are using a viciously circular argument. The bill’s intention just is to slow the process down so that only verified, reproducible, solid science is used in making decisions. Some wag will probably release a study (with proprietary guts) which shows that if this bill passes, this-and-such many people will die and suffer. Get ready for some top-level comedy.
This bill is meant to remove politics from Science.
Way it works now is the EPA makes a proposed ruling based on occult methods. It allows the public to comment on the ruling, but the comments are boxed and shipped unread to the same warehouse where they keep the Ark of the Covenant. And then the EPA implements its new regulations.
Way it should work is that the EPA does what it likes, but must show the country exactly what data, assumptions, and computer code went into its judgments. This is the way Science is supposed to work.
Background on the bill
A staff member of the Subcommittee on Environment sent me these notes on the background of the bill (i.e., it was not I that made rule makings into one word):
Examples of EPA secret science:
* EPA continues to rely heavily on secret data in major rulemakings, including in upcoming ozone standards, which the Agency has admitted could be the most expensive regulation in history.
* EPA frequently relies on undisclosed, proprietary models. Its recently-proposed New Source Performance Standards for power plants, which will functionally prohibit new coal plants in this country, was based upon one of these models.
* The Agency’s chemical risk assessments are routinely based upon taxpayer-funded studies in which the underlying data is not made public, even when members of the public send FOIA requests for the information.
* Virtually all Clean Air Act regulations under this Administration have been justified based upon nontransparent health data. The Science Committee was forced to issue its first subpoena in more than 20 years to try to obtain the basic scientific information behind dozens of multimillion and billion dollar rules.
* The American people are going to foot the bill for these multimillion and billion dollar regulations; they have a right to see the underlying data.
* Transparency and reproducibility are basic tenets of science. Costly environmental regulations should only be based upon data that is available to independent scientists and the public.
* A 2013 poll from the Institute of Energy Research found that 90 percent of Americans agree that studies and data used to make federal government decisions should be made public.
* These provisions are consistent with the White House’s scientific integrity policy, the President’s Executive Order 13563, data access provisions of major scientific journals, and the recommendations of the Administrationâ€™s top science advisors and the Bipartisan Policy Center.
* There are major concerns about the quality of published scientific findings even in peer reviewed journals. As The Economist stated late last year: “Modern scientists are doing too much trusting and not enough verifyingâ€”to the detriment of the whole of science, and of humanity. Too many of the findings that fill the academic ether are the result of shoddy experiments or poor analysis.”
* National Academy of Sciences, 2005: “When government-funded research is used for decision making, data sharing allows for analysis of problems by investigators with diverse perspectives.”
Image source. Hockey stick. Get it? Get it?