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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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The Role for Science in Regulatory Policy
5 August 2009 1:31 pm
An expert panel today suggested ways to improve how U.S. regulatory agencies use input from outside scientists. Their recommendations urge the government to be more transparent in selecting and vetting experts, clearer in defining what questions it wants answered, and more rigorous in reviewing the relevant literature. The report, from the Science for Policy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., also comes with a warning to the Obama Administration: Asking scientists to make policy undermines the science and leads to bad policies.
Federal agencies, notably the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, tap scientific experts to guide their rule-making on everything from drinking water to endangered species. But critics say that laws meant to ensure that the system is open and fair are sometimes ignored or twisted to satisfy the political interests of the Administration in power. "Right now we have a mishmash of policies and no uniformity," says co-chair Sherwood Boehlert, a retired Republican congressman from upstate New York. "What we need is a system that's as open as possible, and that's also consistent from one agency to the next."
Co-chair Donald Kennedy, former editor of Science, says that another big problem is asking scientists to go beyond the limits of their expertise. "We need to separate the science from the policy. Otherwise, groups end up criticizing the science because they don't like the policy." Or, as Boehlert puts it, "How much risk a substance poses to human health or the environment is a science question. How much risk is acceptable [to society] is a policy question."
The 13-member panel included officials from previous Democratic and Republican Administrations as well as prominent academics, corporate leaders, and regulatory experts. The study was funded by the David and Lucile Packard, the William and Flora Hewlett, and the ExxonMobil foundations.