The Department of Interior Restricts what Science can be used in Policy Decision-making Process

What happened: Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt of the Department of Interior (DOI) issued an order, effective immediately, that claims to practice an “open science” policy that will boost transparency, accountability and public access to scientific research. The order requires that scientific data used in DOI policy decisions be reproducible and made publicly available. The DOI’s order is very similar to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) restricting science rule (see here and here), a proposed rule that excluded the input of top EPA scientists and has been opposed by nearly 1,000 scientists.

Why it matters: The requirement to make raw data from scientific studies publicly available can restrict the use of scientific evidence in policy decisions as some data cannot legally be released to the public. This is because the release of such data can endanger individuals, rare and threatened species, and culturally or religiously important sites. Furthermore, the orders’ call that data used in policy decisions be reproducible can exclude important contributions of older studies where raw data is inaccessible. Therefore, the number of scientific studies that can be used to inform policy decisions at the DOI will inevitably go down. Future scientific studies by DOI agencies are likely to be restricted in their scope and methodology, and the order may deter outside scientists from working with DOI agencies, out of fear that confidential information could be released. When the best available research is ignored, policy decisions are less effective. The inability to use the best available science will not serve in the best interest of the public, wildlife and lands that the DOI is tasked with protecting.

Learn more about how this order from the Department of Interior will restrict the best available science available for policy decision-making.

Last Revised Date: 

October 10, 2018