The recent NY Times article on “Retracted Scientific Studies” shows that the system of peer review, transparency and reproducibility are working to keep the best science honest. But the system fails miserably when it comes to regulatory science affecting American public health.
Public health suffers because nearly every study the federal government accepts for evaluating the safety of chemicals are exempt from peer review because they are kept secret at the request of the corporations who conduct the studies or pay private labs labs to create.
This makes it impossible for an independent researcher to reproduce a study or determine whether the study is actually valid.
This is a primary reason why the American public cannot trust corporate & federal regulatory science. This extensive piece on the flaws of science regulation created by the Boston University School of Law explores this issue in great detail: “Equal Treatment for Regulatory Science.”
Significantly, private labs responsible for creating the majority of studies relied upon by federal agencies have been notorious for biased and fraudulent studies. In fact, the often rudimentary rules the federal government imposes on regulatory studies — so-called “Good Laboratory Practices” (GLP) — were established after a scandal and felony convictions involving private labs.
Sadly, crooked science continue to flow from private science: “Toxic Science: Fiddling Facts For Profit & Legal Leverage.”
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The FDA’s Crap Science
GLP’s outdated and frequently inappropriate rules are often and easily “gamed” by private labs who have learned how to create regulatory approval by the savvy application of scientific half-truths, fraud, procedural loopholes, obsolete science, and other significant scientific and ethical lapses.
A scathing article in a journal published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) — illustrates how the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has endangered public health by ignoring more than 700 peer-reviewed studies published in the most respectable scientific journals in its determination that BPA (Bisphenol A) is safe.
FDA Rejects Better NIH Standards
Instead of those 700 high-quality studies, the EHP article pointed out how the FDA relied on two badly done papers conducted to GLP standards which are abysmally inferior to the NIH’s own requirements.
The the EHP article notes that,
“[T]he procedures of GLP are actually surpassed by the procedures required for NIH-funded science published in peer-reviewed journals.
“NIH-funded studies pass through three phases of peer review that are far more challenging than GLP requirements.
“First, the principal scientists must have demonstrated competence to conduct the research, and experimental methods, assays, and laboratory environment must involve use of state-of-the-art techniques to be competitive for NIH funding.
“Second, results are published in peer-reviewed journals, with detailed evaluations by independent experts examining all aspects of the study.
“And third, the findings are challenged by independent efforts to replicate….”
And yet, the FDA and other federal agencies refuse to impose NIH-level standards.
This may account for the scores of fatal errors the FDA has chalked up: Just Because The FDA Says Something’s Safe Doesn’t Mean It Is.
In fact, even when FDA personnel set out to do a study, they end up with science so bad that it would merit an “F” in a sophomore biology class: Bad FDA Science Makes For Bad Public Health.
Why Corporations Love The Present System
Because corporate and private science studies are secret and immune to peer-review, reproducibility and other safeguards, they can’t be challenged no matter how bad they are.
On the other hand, published, peer-reviewed studies are subject to scrutiny, often in ways that corporations can spin to their advantage. This is especially important when those NIH-standard studies expose flaws in the private secret science. And allows flawed, secret science to determine public health decisions and go unchallenged.