New report could improve the scientific foundation for regulatory decisions

A new report by the Research Integrity Roundtable, designed to improve the scientific analysis and independent expert reviews underpinning many important regulatory decisions, could lead to science-based improvements to EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) and other critical assessment programs.

A product of 18 months of stakeholder dialogues between scientists and policy experts from industry, government, and nonprofit sectors, the Roundtable report, Model Practices and Procedures for Improving the Use of Science in Regulatory Decision-Making, builds upon the 2009 Bipartisan Policy Center report Science for Policy Project: Improving the Use of Science in Regulatory Policy.

I served on the Roundtable, and I wholeheartedly agree with Francesca Grifo — Union of Concerned Scientists member and a Roundtable participant — that it was “refreshing to be a part of a rational and respectful roundtable” focusing on ways to help resolve science and policy challenges that can lead to controversy in the regulatory process.

Improving Panel Transparency, Quality of Science

The report recognizes some of the more important issues that have arisen around the formation of advisory panels and the systematic review of scientific evidence. To help address these issues, the report offers several recommendations to improve transparency and the successful functioning of scientific advisory panels managed by federal agencies, as well as the overall quality of science that is used to address policy issues.

Section III of the report addresses systematic scientific reviews, which is an area where the NAS, Chapter 7 of the formaldehyde report called on IRIS to improve. The Research Integrity Roundtable recommends best practices be adopted for data evaluation and that a structured, systematic and transparent framework be employed for assessing the overall evidence to reach conclusions. These recommendations can help guide the IRIS program as it moves forward to improve the scientific basis of its assessments.

Why It’s Critical To Get This Right

As President Obama has noted, it’s critical that the federal government develop or rely on the best science available when making regulatory decisions – and that it evaluate the data fairly and accurately. It’s especially important to improve the quality of scientific reviews because they drive so many other important policy decisions that can have a major impact on jobs and the economy.

About The Research Integrity Roundtable

Members of the Research Integrity Roundtable hailed from industry, environmental NGOs, and professional associations, and included representatives of government agencies serving as liaisons. Participants joined by virtue of their interest in or expertise in relevant issues, or their experience with scientific advisory panels or science-based policy-making.

The work of the Roundtable was supported by participating organizations through both financial and in-kind contributions, within their means, including the American Chemistry Council, the Regulatory and Safety Evaluation Specialty Section of the Society of Toxicology, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the American Chemical Society.

Learn more about the Research Integrity Roundtable.

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