EPA scientists drop bombshell in political-interference survey

Wed, 2008-04-23 12:29Bill Miller
Bill Miller's picture

EPA scientists drop bombshell in political-interference survey

Science around environmental matters has long been dismissed in the rough and tumble of U.S. politics, but many scientists contend things got markedly worse through two terms under President Bush, as incidents have shown how political appointees were involved in shaping government reports on everything from climate change to condoms.

Now, more than half the 1,600 Environmental Protection Agency scientists who responded to an online questionnaire complained of political pressure in interpreting and performing their work.

And four in 10 scientists who have worked at the agency for more than a decade said interference has been more prevalent in the last five years than previously.

Hundreds of Environmental Protection Agency scientists said they have been victims of political interference and pressure from superiors to skew their findings, according to a survey by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Francesca Grifo, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Scientific Integrity Program, said the survey results revealed “an agency in crisis” with low morale, especially among scientists involved in risk assessment and crafting regulations.

“The investigation shows researchers are generally continuing to do their work, but their scientific findings are tossed aside when it comes time to write regulations,” Grifo said.

The survey comes as EPA is under fire from Congress on a number of fronts, including its delay in determining whether carbon dioxide should be regulated to combat global warming.

EPA scientists described an agency where senior managers and the White House Office of Management and Budget frequently second-guess scientific findings and change work conducted by EPA scientists, the report said.

No surprise there.

Here's the full report, Interference at the EPA, by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Attached at the end of this post is a pdf version of the full report.

AttachmentSize
Interference-at-the-EPA.pdf2.89 MB

Previous Comments

Coming from the Union of Concerned Scientists one can safely discount this survey as mostly a piece of left-wing agit-prop.

These scientists consistently misuse their professional position for overly political purposes.

Saw that coming a mile away!

Fern Mackenzie

… it doesn’t diminish the truth of Paul’s comment.

Well, Rob, you can’t have it both ways. If you are going to go after the Union of Concerned Scientists as a left-wing lobby group, you can’t claim that the list of references that Marc Morano slapped together has any more credibility. Fern Mackenzie

I love this quote from the article:

“And four in 10 scientists who have worked at the agency for more than a decade said interference has been more prevalent in the last five years than previously.”

Hmmmm. That means that six out of 10 scientists believe political interference is less now then it was previously.

Exactly.

.

Paul S and Rob have now clearly exhibited their lack of skill in logic. No wonder they can’t understand scientific consensus or risk management!

Here's the data table for that particular question - Rob and Troll are making assumptions that just aren't found in the research.

The real bogus assumption is to cherry pick through the data and then say there is a crisis with political interference at the EPA.

60% of respondents state that political interfenence is the same as/less then/or don’t know, then before.

Therefore, you can conclude that for 60% of EPA employeess, political interference is no worse then before.

Remember, only left-leaning, granola crunching, driving scientists responded to this survey so there is a huge built in bias right there also.

^ Prius driving scientists

No thats an asumption you cant make, x in 10 might think its not different, or the same, x in 10 might think its more than before. Just because 4 in 10 think its more does not mean 6 in 10 think its less.

Exactly,

Or x/10 have just been submitted by government pressure.

Scumbags will get us all killed.

“Just because 4 in 10 think its more does not
mean 6 in 10 think its less.”
- CARL S

You’re right CARL. I phrased my initial response poorly. And even my second post did not quite get the stats right. Here is my bestest mostest accuratist reply to date:

= Over 65% of all respondents state that political interfenence at the EPA is the same as/less then/or don’t know, then before according to the Union of Concerned Scientists latest survey. =

Hmmmm, I wonder why the UCS didn’t put that data from their survey out to the public? No “bombshell” maybe? Manufactured “crisis”?

I would have expected you to arrive at another conclusion after thinking more on the topic but first things first.

It does still remain true that senior scientists, 42.9% of them, find more interference now than in the previous admin while 4.1% find less. That is a clear distinction from how they view the relative amount. But lets even say who cares about those numbers. Lets get to the important part.

Why are you not bothered by political interference in science, because you seem to be along the track that this doesnt matter!?! Over 50% of scientists are saying they have/are/currently/in the past, experiencing some form of political interference in their scientific research. A central government regardless of the admin should not be interfering in scientific work dont you think? Or is that ok in your mind depending on the political ideology applying pressure?

Carl, you are cherry picking by using the data for senior scientists which offers a result conducive to the UCS’s predetermined agenda.

It remains that among all EPA scientists responding to the survey, nearly 2/3rds do not report an increase in political interference.

The Union of Concerned Scientists commissioned the poll and then torques the data to exaggerate the results they want.

Political interference among publicaly paid scientists is a more complex issue and is not something the UCS has attempted to address in any intelligent manner.

I disagree with you in the role of a central government and science. Since our government is paying 100% of the bills and salaries of the scientists, naturally the government will determine what science is funded. Policy, of course, remains under the authority of our elected representatives. Like I said, the issue is a complex one, and would require much more discussion to be adequately addressed.

Paul S/G said: “Since our government is paying 100% of the bills and salaries of the scientists, naturally the government will determine what science is funded”. If you knew anything about how science operates (at least in Canada) you would know that it is in fact scientists who decide what projects are funded, not Government.

Government allocates funding to the Research Councils who then have practicing scientists who decide which project gets funding and which does not.

Even in the research efforts of Government departments it is up to scientists to decide where the money goes.

What is being discussed in this thread is the censorship and blatant distortion of results by politicians for partisan ends. One has only to look at the regulatory agencies in the US to see where this is most blatant.

I’ve never seen politicians altering results if it is to the benefit of the general population, only to the benefit of the politicians’ sugar daddies i.e. big business.

So Paul, get off your high horse and find out what is actually happening. Do you get a pay cheque from a large chemical company? These are the only people you seem to support, they and their political accomplices.

Ian Forrester

Ian, first you say this:

“If you knew anything about how science operates (at least in Canada) you would know that it is in fact scientists who decide what projects are funded, not Government.”

Then you say this:

“Government allocates funding to the Research Councils… “

Which confirms my point that government (ultimately us) funds public scientists 100% and through this funding we ultimately control what research is funded. This is as it should be.

This thread is not however, about blatant distortion and censorship by politicians. It is about an activist, agenda-driven and politically-motivated organization, the Union of Concerned Scientists, commissioning a poll to advance their own agenda and then torquing the results to suit their predetermined agenda.

Remember, according to the results of the UCS poll, nearly 2/3rds of respondents (over 65%) do not report an increase in political interference in their work.

I assure you I do not work for a chemical company (though I am a fan of chemicals) but fail to see how that matter has any relevance to the issue at hand.

Which is fine because the survey does cover censorship by politicians, just under 50% (all respondants) think changing the meaning (ie blatant distortion) of scientific findings is occuring.

I really dont get how you think this is acceptable. Thats non scientists ie political appointees changing the results of experiments, assessments, etc to meet a certain objective. This isnt about guiding research direction, or controlling the agency and its efforts, this is actually changing the meaning of scientific findings. Its definitely not science anymore once that starts happening but clearly you think its acceptable.

The fact it is occuring should be disturbing on its own. Making excuses for it is even worse.

CARL, it is difficult to prove your point using a suspect study like the one done by the UCS.

The UCS is an agenda-driven left-wing advocacy group. They knew the answer they wanted (and the answer they would get) before they even conducted their survey.

Like I said, even though I give little merit to the survey since it was done by the UCS, over 65% of all scientists who responded said interference has not increased.

Paul S/G, you show your extreme ignorance in just about everything you post on this blog.

Why do you continue to show that you are ignorant? Does it give you a warm fuzzy feeling that you can try and distort the thinking of intelligent people? I can assure you that your rubbish will only be read and accepted by the likes of Rob, ZOG, Troll and the few other mindless fools who infect this site with their sickening ideology and anti-science vitriol.

Ian Forrester

Ian, why don’t you come join us on the dark side? We offer flex time, great pay and benefits, and Exxon throws one *helluva* Xmas party every year. Think about it and let me know, ok? ;)

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