Today a group of editorial leaders from several publishers, including PLOS, have co-published an Editorial highlighting concerns about the “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” rule proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This comes eighteen months after the same group published an Editorial when the rule was first proposed, in April 2018.
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From the Statement/Editorial:
Our previous statement on the proposed rule, authored and published by the editors-in-chief of five major scientific journals in May 2018, reflected alarm that the proposal’s push for “transparency” would be used as a mechanism for suppressing the use of relevant scientific evidence in policy-making, including public health regulations. After the public comment period for the proposed rule closed, the EPA reported more than 590,000 comments from individuals and scientific, medical, and legal groups, many of which articulated similar concerns
As leaders of peer-reviewed journals, we support open sharing of research data, but we also recognize the validity of scientific studies that, for confidentiality reasons, cannot indiscriminately share absolutely all data. Datasets featuring personal identifiers—including studies evaluating genomes of thousands of people to characterize medically relevant genetic variants—are but one example. Such data may be critical to developing new drugs or diagnostic tools but cannot be shared openly; even anonymized personal data can be subject to re-identification, and it has been a longstanding practice for agencies and journals to acknowledge the value of data privacy adjustments. The principles of careful data management, as they inform medicine, are just as applicable to data regarding environmental influences on public health. Discounting evidence from the decision-making process on the basis that some data is confidential runs counter to the EPA stated mission “to reduce environmental risks…based on the best available scientific information.
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H. Holden Thorp
Editor-in-Chief, Science Family of Journals,
Executive Editor, Public Library of Science (PLOS) Journals
Editor-in-Chief, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the United States of America
Vice President of Editorial, Cell Press
Editor-in-Chief, The Lancet