In an 11th-hour campaign to tip the scales in their favor, supporters of a controversial new data-access law have flooded the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) with letters supporting its implementation.
Many scientists oppose the provision, pushed by Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), which would force taxpayer-funded researchers to hand over raw data to the public on request (Science, 2 April, p. 23 ). And until recently, the comments were running 4-to-1 against. But when a public comment period closed on 5 April, supporters appeared to have cranked out the majority of more than 10,000 comments sent to OMB, although no exact count was available.
Stacks of pro-rule comments were identical letters from members of Gun Owners of America, which told its members "if we win this, we can expose all the phony science used to justify many restrictions on firearms ownership." Members of English First also backed the plan en masse, saying it will open to scrutiny studies supporting bilingual education. Some letter writers added personal thoughts: "I am often amazed at what passes for 'science' when some group opposed to firearms or freon spouts some information that is siupposed [sic] to represent the scientific community's best efforts at explaining a phenomenon," griped Cornel Rasor of Sandpoint, Idaho.
OMB officials declined to comment on whether they will give greater weight to the mass-produced missives or to the fewer personal appeals from researchers detailing how the law could disrupt their work. The agency will respond with a revised proposal later this year.