You may recall our recent discussion about a new EPA policy which will require all scientific studies used in considering new regulations to make not only their findings but their methodology and underlying data available for public scrutiny and comparative analysis. What’s not to like, right? These are investigations being done by the government and funded by the taxpayer, so the information used to reach any conclusions should be freely available. Everyone’s a big fan of transparency when it comes to those sneaks in Washington so this should roll through smoothly.
Not even close. It turns out that a previous EPA chief, Gina McCarthy, and Janet McCabe, the Obama era author of the Clean Power Plan, don’t care for this new system at all. In fact, they published an op-ed to remind all of you peasants that it’s none of your darn business what data went into any given study and you should just take their word for it. (The Hill)
In a New York Times op-ed published Monday, former EPA administrators Gina McCarthy and Janet McCabe warned the public should “not to be fooled” by a recent announcement by Pruitt that he would rid the agency of “secret science,” a term used by some critics of the agency to describe studies that include nonpublic scientific data.
“Don’t be fooled by this talk of transparency. He and some conservative members of Congress are setting up a nonexistent problem in order to prevent the EPA from using the best available science,” the two wrote.
“It is his latest effort to cripple the agency,” they added.
This poorly explained op-ed relies on the same two arguments which Pruitt’s critics have attempted to foist off on us before, neither of which does them any credit. The first is the claim that any scientific study involving medical data could compromise the confidential medical data of patients. That’s patently absurd as I’m sure McCarthy knows. Those studies could have patient names stripped out before publishing and simply provide the results of medical examinations and how they link to the subject at hand.
The second argument is the real kicker, in which we are informed that there’s no need for the hoi polloi to have a look at studies which have been peer reviewed. Seriously? Does anyone over there keep track of the news from the science world? The quality of a peer review depends entirely on who is doing the reviewing, what their qualifications are and whether or not they bring any bias into the lab with them. But let’s say none of that is a factor. Even in generic terms, peer reviews are no guarantee of anything and the scientific community already knows how much of a problem this is. You don’t have to look far to find stories of how the peer review process needs to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the 17th century. And with good reason, too. Just a few years ago, one science journal announced they had to pull dozens of peer reviewed studies from publication because the “reviews” had been done from fake accounts set up to be favorable to the original authors. Just last year one cancer journal deleted more than 100 studies for the same reason… fraudulent peer reviews. Other science journals were found to be publishing peer reviewed reports which turned out to be random, computer generated nonsense.
The list goes on. If you want everyone to be confident in the work being used, be transparent. It’s really that simple. And if you’re using a study which raises a lot of eyebrows, particularly among other scientists in the same field, the work can be debated and, if need be, redone to see if their results can be replicated. Insisting on using hidden data is only going to make people question your results even more.