Abuses of Science: Case Studies

Examples of political interference with government science documented by the UCS Scientific Integrity Program, 2004-2009

Published Aug 4, 2014

From its beginning in 2004, the UCS Scientific Integrity program spent the next five years collecting over 100 stories of scientific integrity abuses from a variety of government agencies. Linked below are some of the most compelling—not to say outrageous—of these stories: tales of interference, suppression of data, muzzling of scientists, the well-traveled "revolving door" between industry and public service, and the stacking of scientific advisory boards.

The next generation

Unfortunately, attacks on scientific integrity and science-based policy are not just a historical footnote. While some progress was made under the Obama administration, problems continued, and under the Trump administration they appear to be getting worse. In 2017, the Center for Science and Democracy began compiling new stories of attacks on science

Issue Agency Year Title
Env EPA 2006 EPA Library Closings Limit Researchers’ Access to Information
Env DOI 2001 Scientific Advice on Endangered Salmon Deleted
Env NOAA 2004 Agencies Control Scientists’ Contacts with the Media
PC EPA 2004 Agency Experts “Aghast” as EPA Adjusts Air Quality Models
NS DOS 2001 Arms Control Panel Dismissed
PH CDC 2007 Hushing Up the Health Hazards of Climate Change
Env DOI 2007 Designated Spokesperson Required for Polar Bear Travels
Env USDA 2003 Agricultural Brochure Cancelled Due to Climate Implications
NS DOE 2002 Evidence on Iraq’s Aluminum Tubes Misrepresented
PH CDC 2003 Scientific Knowledge on Breast Cancer Distorted
NS EAC 2006 Election Panel Delays, Edits Reports on Voter Fraud
Env DOI 2007 Federal Agency Doesn't Give a Hoot about Owls
Env DOI 2004 Interior Department Overrules Scientists on Marbled Murrelet Designation
PH CDC 2002 Scientific Knowledge on HIV/AIDS Prevention Distorted
PH PCB 2004 President's Council on Bioethics
PC EPA 2003 Multiple Air Pollutants Information Suppressed
Env DOI 2006 Endangered Frog Loses, Developers Win as Critical Habitat is Reduced
NS NASA 2005 No Space for Aviation Safety at NASA
NS EDU 2006 Department of Education Ignores Politically Inconvenient Study on School Performance
PH NIH 2002 National Institute on Drug Abuse Subjects Scientific Appointees to Litmus Test
Env DOI 2006 BLM Cuts Forest Grant after Study Criticizes Tree Cutting
NS DOJ 2005 Justice Department Demoted Official Who Fought Suppression of Racial Profiling Study
PC EPA 2008 Integrity of Public Toxics Database Threatened by Interagency Review
Env DOI 2004 Political Appointee Edits Science on Greater Sage Grouse
NS NNSA 2003 National Nuclear Security Administration Panel Dismissed
PC EPA 2004 Selenium Standards Misinterpret Key Research
OMB 2003 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Proposed Changes to "Peer Review"
PH NIH 2004 Fogarty International Center Advisory Board
Env USDA 2004 Forest Brochure Misrepresents Science to Promote Logging Initiative
Env DOS 2006 Government Climate Web Sites: Missing in Action
PH HHS 2002 Workplace Safety Panel Nominees Face Political Litmus Tests
PC FEMA 2006 FEMA Exposes Gulf Coast Residents to Formaldehyde
Env USDA 2003 Scientific Plan On Forest Management Altered
NOAA 2001 Press Releases Controlled for Political, Not Scientific, Importance
NOAA 2004 Press "Minders" Required at Scientists’ Interviews
PH FDA 2002 Underqualified Nominee Installed on FDA Reproductive Health Advisory Committee
Env EPA 2003 White House Alters EPA Scientific Document on Climate Change
PH HHS 2006 U.S. Surgeon General Muzzled by Political Appointees
PH HHS 2004 HHS Seeks Right of Approval Over Experts on WHO Health Panels
Env DOI 2004 Timber Industry ‘Gets What They Want’, Birds Don’t Get What They Need
PC EPA 2006 EPA Removes Lead Scientists, then Considers Removing Lead Air Quality Protections
PH CDC 2004 CDC Experts Prevented from Presenting At International AIDS Conference
PC EPA 2006 Should Air Pollution Rules be Based on Politics?
Env DOI 2002 Science Undermined at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
PH CDC 2004 Abstinence-Only Sex Education Curriculum
Env DOI 2006 FWS Decrees the Southwestern Bald Eagle is Safe, in Spite of Science
Env DOI 2003 Science Regarding Endangered Species Act Manipulated
Env DOI 2006 Prairie Dog Science Reversed by Interior Department Decree
Env DOI 2003 Misrepresenting Scientific Knowledge on Trumpeter Swans
PH HHS 2004 Political Pressure Sidelined HHS Efforts to Increase US Breastfeeding Rates
Env DOI 2003 Bull Trout Habitat Analyses Manipulated
Env EPA 2006 EPA Scientists Restricted From Presenting Findings at Conferences
Env DOI 2003 Science Washed Away in Missouri River Decision Making
Env EPA 2002 White House Council on Environmental Quality Edits EPA Administrator’s Op-Ed
Env DOI 2006 BLM Prevents Listing of an Endangered Plant, Promotes Oil Shale Development in its Habitat
Env DOI 2002 Distorting Scientific Knowledge on Florida Panthers
Env DOI 2007 Wildlife Manager Pressured on Border Wall
Env EPA 2002 EPA Scientists Restricted from Speaking Freely with the Media
Env EPA 2003 White House Office Overrules Science and Procedures at the EPA
Env EPA 2007 White House Sidelines Science in Regulating Ozone
Env EPA 2006 Restrictions on the Right to Publish at the EPA
PC DOI 2009 The Minerals Management Service: Bad Science in the Name of Private Interests
Env DOI 2008 Last-Ditch Effort to Limit Science in Endangered Species Act Rescinded
Env DOI 2002 Salmon Experts Pressured to Change Findings
Env Adm 2002 Manipulation of Global Warming Science
Env DOI 2004 Leveling a Mountain of Research on Mountaintop Removal Strip Mining
Env NOAA 2005 Hurricane Science Becomes a Matter of Policy as NOAA Takes Sides
Env EPA 2005 EPA Withheld Negative Report on Fuel Efficiency
Env NOAA 2005 Can’t Say Climate Change at Carbon Conference
Env DOI 2006 Systematic Interference with Science at Interior Department Exposed
Env NASA 2006 NASA Reaches for Muzzle as Renowned Climate Scientist Speaks Out
Env DOD 2006 Navy Used Flawed Science to Justify New Atlantic Sonar Range
Env DOI 2007 Mining Agency Buries Streams and Science
Env EPA 2007 The EPA’s Elusive Climate Change Endangerment Report
Env DOI 2008 Grazing Regulations Include Doctored Environmental Analysis
Env NOAA 2009 White House Politics Collide With Endangered Right Whale
NS DOJ 2005 Justice Department Interrogation Memos Abuse Sleep Deprivation Research
PC DOD, VA 2008 Pressure Not to Diagnose PTSD at the U.S. Army and Department of Veterans Affairs
PC DOL 2001 Coal Slurry Spill Investigation Suppressed
PH USDA 2002 Analysis on Airborne Bacteria Suppressed
PC EPA 2003 World Trade Center Rescue Workers Believed EPA, Ended Up Sick
PC EPA 2003 EPA Ignored Science When Regulating Power Plant Mercury Emissions
PC EPA 2004 Chemical Industry Pressures EPA to Protect Herbicide, not Wildlife
PC EPA 2004 Plywood Rule Used Industry Funded Research, Ignored Independent Scientific Studies
PC EPA 2005 What Toxic Chemicals Are Released In Your Neighborhood?
PC DOI 2009 EPA Air Pollution Decision Threatens Public Health
PC EPA 2006 Industry Pressure Trumps Sound Science in Pesticide Regulation
PH CDC 2002 Abstinence-Only Education
PH CDC 2002 Lead Poisoning Prevention Panel Influenced by Industry
PH FDA 2004 FDA’s Drug Safety System Fails to Protect Public
PH FDA 2004 Science Overruled on Emergency Contraception
PH HHS 2005 Mifepristone and Misoprostol: WHO Endorses Safer Abortions Despite U.S. Interference
PH FDA 2006 Top FDA Official Approves Medical Device Despite Lack of Efficacy
PH DOI 2006 Ketek: FDA Managers Value Drug Maker Relations Over Patient Safety
PH OSHA, EPA 2006 Agencies Pressured Not to Warn Mechanics about Asbestos
PH FDA 2007 The FDA Declares that Bisphenol A is Safe, Despite Scientific Evidence
PH CPSC 2007 Federal Agency Fails to Protect Children from Lead Lunches
PH CPSC 2007 Safety Agency Hides Danger of All-Terrain Vehicles

Issue area key: Env = Environmental issues; NS = National security; PC = Pollution and contamination; PH = Public health; — = other

Agency key: Adm = Administration-wide; CDC = Centers for Disease Control; CPSC = Consumer Product Safety Commission; DOD = Department of Defense; DOE = Department of Energy; DOI = Department of the Interior; DOJ = Department of Justice; DOL = Department of Labor; DOS = Department of State; EDU = Department of Education; EPA = Environmental Protection Agency; FDA = Food and Drug Administration; FEMA = Federal Emergency Management Administration; HHS = Department of Health and Human Services; NASA = National Aeronautics and Space Administration; NIH = National Institutes of Health; NNSA = National Nuclear Security Administration; NOAA = National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; OMB = Office of Management and Budget; OSHA = Occupational Safety and Health Administration; USDA = Department of Agriculture; VA = Veterans Administration.

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