Scientific Research Subject to Political Interference at EPA
On May 20, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report on the implementation of the agency's scientific integrity policy. The report detailed the results of a survey of EPA staff conducted in November and December 2018. The survey found that 207 EPA staff "involved in science" had reported potential violations of the scientific integrity policy and a further 394 had experienced, but did not report, potential violations of the policy. Of those who did not report potential violations, 251 alleged "interference with science by a manager or senior Agency leader," 175 alleged "suppression or delay of release of scientific information," 106 alleged "conflicts of interest," and 99 alleged "data quality concerns." Common reasons for not reporting violations included "fear of retaliation, belief that reporting would make no difference, perceived suppression or interference by Agency leadership and senior management, and belief that politics and policy outweigh science."
The survey also found that many EPA staff are concerned about censorship of scientific information. 1,049 EPA staff "involved in science" reported being dissatisfied with the EPA's release of scientific information. According to the OIG's report, the staff expressed concern that "[a]gency leadership and senior management interferes with, suppresses, or censors the release of possibly due to political or industry influence." Many complained about delays in releasing information, with one staffer reporting that "[c]ertain offices are now holding peer-review papers indefinitely, taking advantage of what used to be an environment that support timely courtesy reviews."