The AAMC and four other higher education associations Nov. 6 sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt opposing a new policy to exclude EPA-grant funded scientists from the agency’s advisory committees.
Administrator Pruitt issued an Oct. 31 directive to announce the new policy. It would prohibit scientists who currently hold EPA grants from serving on any of the EPA’s 22 federal advisory committees, which deliberate on air quality, drinking water, pesticides, and other issues. According to an agency press release, the intent of the new policy is to promote objectivity, “From this day forward, EPA advisory committee members will be financially independent from the Agency,” Director Pruitt stated. The directive would also broaden the scope of advice received from other communities, including “state, tribal, and local government participation.” Industry-funded scientists and researchers with grants from other sources would not be excluded by the directive.
In their joint letter, the AAMC, American Council on Education, Association of American Universities, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and Council on Governmental Relations denounced the “unfounded premise” that scientists funded by an agency do not or cannot help provide objective or independent advice to that agency. Rather, the letter asserts, “Scientists who have successfully competed for grants are the very subject-matter experts the agency should turn to for advice…To prohibit these same highly qualified experts from advising the EPA as members of its formal advisory committees is nonsensical and will only impede – not help -- the agency’s ability to craft and implement well informed policies on behalf of the taxpayer.” The letter calls on the administrator to withdraw the policy and work with the scientific community on developing advisory committees that more broadly engage expert advice.