U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz introduced new legislation today, dubbed the Scientific Integrity Act, to protect public scientific research and reports from the influence of political and special interests.
Schatz, along with U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), said this longstanding concern has “taken on newfound urgency under President Trump.”
“These are challenging and unprecedented times for science,” said Schatz in a news release. “And while it’s not the first time it has been under attack, this time feels worse. That’s why we need to answer the call of our times and stand up for science. Our bill would protect government science from political interference. It would make data and findings off-limits for political appointees and managers, and make sure scientists follow careful processes for review.”
The Scientific Integrity Act would establish uniform standards for policies at U.S. agencies meant to prevent public research and findings from being distorted or shelved for political reasons. To date, Schatz said more than 20 federal agencies have already developed some form of scientific integrity policy, but with inconsistent standards.
In addition, the Act would affirm that science dictates policy, and ensure that scientific research is free from the pressure of politics, ideology, or financial influence. Public scientists would be held to high standards, but also be guaranteed rights and protections.
Schatz said President Trump has built a track record of distorting or suppressing science.
In its first two years, he said the Trump administration has prohibited the Centers for Disease Control staff from using the words “evidence-based” and “science-based” in budget documents, and scrapped an EPA-recommended ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide proven to impair brain development in young children.
“Our economy, our health and safety, and our environment all depend on independent federal scientific research and fully informed, science-based policies,” said Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, in a statement. “The Scientific Integrity Act would protect scientists from political interference in their scientific work, and make sure that they can carry out their research and share it without fear of retaliation. Congress should pass the Scientific Integrity Act so that all presidential administrations can be held to that strong standard.”