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I found the most curious item on OMB OIRA’s webpage today, and my paranoia about end-of-the-term mischief by the Bush Administration kicked into high gear.  The item is listed as a proposed rule submitted to OIRA for review on July 7 titled:

“Requirements for DOL Agencies’ Assessment of Occupational Health Risks” (RIN: 1290-AA23)  (Link here, select DOL) or (screenshot)

Whenever the term risk assessment is uttered by the Bush Admininstration, I know they are up to no good.  Recall their earlier effort at a major overhaul of agency’s risk assessment procedures; this was a proposal that was long on new one-size-fits-all requirements for agencies involved in health, safety and environmental protection, but woefully lacking in details about the alleged problem it was designed to fix.  More importantly, it would have added new steps to the rulemaking process, making a dysfunctional system more so, and creating administrative obstacles for health protective rules.  Thankfully, a failing grade by the National Academy of Sciences forced OMB to junk it

This mysterious draft proposal at OMB makes me wonder whether this is the White House’s plan B for so-called “reforms” to agency risk assessments.  Let’s see:  they couldn’t impose their requirements agency-wide, so why not target specific agencies?  What better place than those pesky rules to protect workers’ from dangerous contaminants?

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I’m repeating myself here, but it’s for a good cause. At the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy at George Washington University School of Public Health, we’ve launched a multi-part study to understand the current policies surrounding scientists’ work at government agencies and to create recommendations for policies that support strong science and the appropriate role of scientists and researchers within our health and environment agencies.

Many talented government scientists leaving the federal agencies that protect our health and environment, and one of the ways to attract and retain more scientists to these important positions is to ensure that the rights and responsibilities of government scientists are clearly delineated and protected. In addition to the problems of political interference with science that have made headlines in recent years, government scientists also face a unique set of challenges involving balancing their work as researchers, regulators, and applied scientists with their roles as employees of structured, hierarchical organizations.  

The major piece of the research is talking to actual government scientists – and that’s where we need your help. If you’re a current or former government scientist with an advanced degree and at least five years of experience working for a science-based health or environment federal agency, we’d like to interview you (more details below). Or, if you don’t meet that description but know people who do, we’d be grateful if you’d pass this information along to them, and/or direct them to this webpage.

Here are the official details:

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