The Republican Plan to Invalidate Scientific Research
How are Republicans attempting to squash scientific facts that challenge their own agendas? By funding and generating alternate research that backs up their claims instead. More than a dozen conservative senators are currently calling for an end to disclosure rules so that biased scientific studies can be presented as fact without having to acknowledge who paid for the research, writes The Daily Beast.
Remarkably, the existing disclosure regulations are tame. The government allows corporate-funded science to be discussed, even in the context of debates that would directly impact these specific corporations. The one caveat is that when this research is shared, the presenters must disclose how the research was funded in order to divulge conflicts of interest.
Considering that many people will willfully ignore the identity of the research’s backers anyway, this is a minor concession in an effort to promote a small amount of transparency. Nonetheless, 16 GOP U.S. senators actively object to even this slight amount of transparency.
The issue came to a head when the silica industry wanted to provide the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with research that showed its product to be safe. In order to do so, silica reps also had to report what entities funded the research they were offering as evidence. The senators sent a letter to the OSHA calling the agency to rescind the backer request as it may cause them to “prejudge the substance” of the research.
In other words, the senators wanted the silica industry’s own research to be considered on equal footing with research that was less likely to be biased. If the OSHA were to be wary of the silica industry’s findings, that doesn’t seem like an unreasonable outcome.
Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, is leading the charge to rescind disclosure requirements. According to a member of Alexander’s staff, “the chilling effect the financial disclosure could have seems counter to the idea of robust inclusion of a diverse set of ideas and views to inform the rule-making.”
Ah, yes. The old “both sides of the story need to be presented” argument. While that’s good in principle, when the “other” side of the story is a fabricated, biased one, why does that deserve comparable consideration? If private interests can pay to make “fake science” indiscernible from and on equal footing with real science in the eyes of lawmakers, then there’s no hope for real science at all.
Decades ago, the tobacco industry used “research” of its own to keep cigarette regulations at bay. By presenting alternative results to legitimate medical studies, cigarette companies were able to keep the debate alive for years longer than it should have.
If even minor research disclosure requirements are successfully stripped from government procedure, look for even more pseudo-science to emerge to back conservative ideals. With peer-reviewed scientific research almost unanimously supporting human-created climate change, you can bet that the more than 50% of Republican members of Congress who continue to reject global warming would be happy to introduce some questionably funded research as scientific “fact” in order to support their views.