by Printus LeBlanc
Every day, the federal government puts out new regulations, updates old ones, or eliminates them all together. This is done in the Federal Register and is published every morning. What most people don’t know is a great amount of the rules and regulations published in the Federal Register were concocted using reports from government and third-party scientists using “secret science.” Thankfully the National Association of Scholars (NAS) is now calling out federal agencies and Congress for not doing enough to ensure science used to influence every single American can be reproduced independently by making the data publicly available.
Secret science has long been a tool of the progressive movement to push its radical agenda. The U.S. government gives out billions in grants to research institutions around the country. The grants are given to study everything from climate change and medical research to animal mating habits and shrimp on a treadmill. The product of the research is then given to the representative government agency and often extensive economy changing regulations are drawn up and implemented based on the study.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has been at the forefront of the battle, announcing on March 19, the EPA will no longer use reports that do not make their data and methodology public. Pruitt has been under constant assault in the media since he took action, but the report released by the NAS backs up the actions Pruitt took.
NAS President Peter Wood and director of research David Randall published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal opining about the irreproducibility crisis gripping the scientific community and the danger it poses stating, “A deeper issue is that the irreproducibility crisis has remained largely invisible to the general public and policy makers. That’s a problem given how often the government relies on supposed scientific findings to inform its decisions. Every year the U.S. adds more laws and regulations that could be based on nothing more than statistical manipulations.”
They continued, “All government agencies should review the scientific justifications for their policies and regulations to ensure they meet strict reproducibility standards. The economics research that steers decisions at the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department needs to be rechecked. The social psychology that informs education policy could be entirely irreproducible. The whole discipline of climate science is a farrago of unreliable statistics, arbitrary research techniques and politicized groupthink.”
The NAS report came up with 40 recommendations for Congress, the executive branch, universities, and the judiciary branch to reverse the irreproducibility crisis in modern science.
Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning concurs with Scott Pruitt and the NAS report, calling on the agencies to act now, “It is ridiculous that we even have to have a discussion about whether the data collected by scientists relying on government funding that is used in policy making ought to be published, reproducible and transparent, but here we are. The National Association of Scholars correctly notes that we face crisis of irreproducibility in modern science, and government absolutely agencies play a tremendous role in exacerbating it when they implement policies without fully publishing the science behind it. We echo the Association’s call for the EPA and other agencies to adopt the standards used by the National Institutes for Health in requiring that data be published and be accessible in the grantmaking process. Science and policies generated based on it rely on its transparency and must adhere to the requirement that every theory can be falsified.”
However, the most important action must be taken by Congress.
Even if every federal agency in the executive branch followed Scott Pruitt’s lead, the next administration could reverse the decision. For that reason, Congress must pass legislation that disallows the use of “secret science” by federal agencies to justify regulations. U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chairman of the Space, Science, and Technology Committee, has been fighting the transparency battle for years and introduced H.R. 1430, the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act of 2017. The legislation has passed the House and awaits action in the Senate. McConnell should move immediately to bring the legislation to the floor and dare the Democrats to stop the open science debate.
It is time to get politics out of the science used by the government. Science is supposed to be open and transparent to test falsifiability. When data is hidden it signals an agenda, and that is what we have gotten the past eight years. The NAS is to be celebrated for daring to publish a report many in the scientific community see as a threat. Now that Congress has been armed with the knowledge from the report, it should act to protect scientific integrity or else secret science from political operatives will make the rules.
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Printus LeBlanc is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government.