The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs a new science czar to give researchers a greater voice in agency decisions, according to a National Academy of Sciences report released today.
EPA has long been under assault for the questionable quality of the science underlying its regulation of everything from air pollution to dioxin (Science, 16 June, p. 1941). The agency "has made significant improvements" to its research program since a critical 1992 study, according to "Strengthening Science at the U.S. EPA," released this week. But "there is a continuing basis for many of the scientific concerns" raised by previous reports, it concludes. In particular, the agency's current science chief--the head of the Office of Research and Development (ORD)--lacks clout in how regulatory offices use research findings, says panel chair Paul Risser, an ecologist and president of Oregon State University in Corvallis. EPA's structure "has not accommodated science at the level it needs to be," Risser says.
To elevate science, the report urges Congress to create a new senior position: deputy administrator for science and technology. It also recommends a 6-year term for ORD chiefs and attracting more top-notch academic scientists to stints at EPA labs. The first measure of Congress's reaction to the report may come at a Senate environment committee hearing this summer.