An Appeal for the Integrity of Science and Public Policy

This October 2016 editorial in the journal Toxicology is signed by nearly 200 scientists working in toxicology or related fields. They assert concern “for the erosion of scientific principles in the purported validation of experimental evidence, which is manifest in arguments disguised as true science.

“Such arguments are used to simulate and exaggerate hazards and risks that justify official intervention policies in health, safety and environmental issues,” they write. “This erodes public confidence in science and government, leads to misallocation of public resources, cause massive economic distortions, and strains court adjudications.

“Our concern is motivated by the importance of adhering to the self-evident precepts of the scientific method in arriving at defensible conclusions. Those precepts require observational and experimental data that are authentic and of known measurement error; experimental variables that are relevant to the hypotheses being tested; the control of externalities that may confound observations and experimental results; and reproducibility by other performers or counterfactual verification …

“We agree that precautionary policies and regulations may be called for in the absence of firm scientific evidence that would permit an assumption of certainty. However, such precautionary regulations and policies should not be imposed as if grounded on objective science, but should result from public debates on wider issues including economic trade-offs between desirable uses and cautious restrictions on exposure. Rather than being truly precautionary, what might be called pseudo-science is a subterfuge to gloss over arbitrary policies and regulations while claiming to be supported by the impartial objectivity of the scientific method. Indeed, on such shaky grounds the lifestyles, choices, and behaviors of nations are directed, substantial segments of national economies are regulated, and unfortunate transgressors face criminal charges, massive fines and detention.”

Read full editorial: toxicology-on-scientific-integrity-2-17.

Related Website

The American Chemistry Council provides information about the science, public policy discussion and perspectives on exposures to natural or man-made substances and any potential effects on the endocrine system. It also lists important scientific papers.