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Thinktank defends US EPA 'science transparency' proposal

The US non-profit thinktank the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has defended the EPA's proposed 'science transparency' rule by saying it will help ensure the validity of agency science and increase the chances that regulations will generate public health benefits.

Since the April introduction of the proposal – which seeks to ensure the studies, models and analyses the agency uses to underpin its regulatory decisions are available for public validation – a variety of NGOs, academics, medical societies and scientific journals have sounded off against it. Critics say the rule would block the agency from using legitimate science when making regulatory decisions, and burden agency scientists with "unnecessary and costly procedures".

But according to an analysis by the CEI's Angela Logomasini, the rule is "actually far more modest and flexible than depicted by its critics, and its goals are in fact achievable".

'Cornerstone of scientific process'

Dr Logomasini argues that transparency is a "cornerstone of the scientific process". And only when there is access to the data – as well as the underlying methodology used to obtain and analyse it – can reproducibility be achieved.

The EPA's proposal, she says, would promote this. And "by helping ensure the underlying science is valid, transparency will increase the probability that regulations will actually generate public health benefits and not unintentionally undermine public health and well-being".

"The rule's ultimate goal is not to determine how much regulation we will have, but whether the regulations will be effective and necessary to achieve public health and environmental goals," she says. The CEI report adds that the rule applies only to major regulations – those expected to impose costs above $100m a year.

And as far as concerns that the agency would have to discard research that is not publicly available, Dr Logomasini argues that TSCA requires the agency to use "best available science". In cases where data was not fully available, the agency would still be required to rely on those, she says. The rule would simply block the EPA from refusing "to release the data on arbitrary grounds".

The American Chemistry Council said the CEI analysis "offers important perspective and critical facts" about the proposal, and explains why its detractors are "wrong".

"The bottom line is this proposal will strengthen EPA's regulatory process by helping ensure that  it is relying on the best available science – science that is reliable and unbiased – and by making the underlying research and data publicly available in ways that protect personal privacy, confidential business information, proprietary interests and intellectual property rights," it said.

Comments on the EPA's proposed rule will be accepted through 16 August.

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