Bill Proposes Taking Peer Review Away from OMB

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Published  02/22/2005 09:09 PM

Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA), ranking member of the House Government Reform Committee, and Bart Gordon (D-TN), ranking member of the House Science Committee, introduced the Restore Scientific Integrity to Federal Research and Policymaking Act (H.R. 839) Feb. 16, which would move authority for federal peer review standards away from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Waxman and Gordonís bill addresses increasing concerns about politicization of science in the executive branch under the current administration. For some time, Waxman has tracked instances of political interference with scientific decisions and functions of agencies. The new legislation would prohibit political officials from obstructing federally funded scientific research, censoring findings, or disseminating scientific information known to be false or misleading.

One section of the bill proposes quashing the OMBís bulletin on peer review. The bulletin establishes strict requirements for the type of peer review conducted for influential scientific information and recognized OMBís Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs as the authority on peer review in the federal government. OMB developed the bulletin as part of its role implementing the Data Quality Act, even though the act does not specifically instruct the political office to produce such standards. Waxmanís bill would instruct federal science-based agencies to establish applicable standards for peer review.

The bill also addresses scientific advisory committees by barring appointments based on political views and strengthening conflict of interest provisions. Another portion of the bill would increase whistleblower protections for federal employees who uncover political interference with science. Additionally, the bill instructs the White House Science Advisor to annually report to Congress on scientific integrity in the federal agencies.

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