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Protecting the evidentiary base of occupational and environmental health
There is increasing evidence that political and economic interests are eroding the independence and integrity of public health science in the USA.1,2 A recent supplement of the American Journal of Public Health has several insightful articles on the topic.3,4 Readers will by now be familiar with the manipulation of scientific information by executives and scientists in the tobacco industry.5 Sadly, it now appears that the tobacco story was not an isolated case of a few unethical businessmen and scientists, but merely the best documented example of economic interests undermining public health science. In recent years, the threats to the integrity of science in the US have come not only from economically interested parties, but also from government.
A report of the US Congress found numerous examples of how the current Administration has manipulated scientific research and traditional scientific review procedures.6 These include inappropriate questioning of prospective members of scientific review committees about their political views; removal of long serving members on the basis of political litmus tests; and blocking research funding and the publication of research results, when these appeared to reflect badly on economic interests supporting the Administration. Although shifts in political leadership often lead to greater or lesser emphasis on environmental regulation from time to time, what is new and alarming about current decision …
Competing interests: none.