(Fwd) Fw: E-Link: Cal-EPA scientists Face Censorship

Joe Strahl (Joseph.Strahl@iiiee.lu.se)
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:13:35 -0500

The usual appologizes for cross-posting apply.
This message was forwarded to me by

Chris Hope, Judge Institute of Management Studies,
University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1AG, UK.
Voice: +44 1223 338194. Fax: +44 1223 339701
e-mail: ch11@eng.cam.ac.uk

Original message follows below:

From: EnviroNews Service <newsdesk@envirolink.org>
Mon, 21 Oct 1996 09:50:55 -0400 (EDT)
To: Environews@envirolink.org
Subject: E-Link: Cal-EPA scientists Face Censorship

Cal-EPA Scientists Face Censorship

SACRAMENTO, October 18 (ENS) - The scientific community of the California
Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is in a state of
turmoil. An elite cadre of politically appointed managers is forcing the
scientific staff to produce results consistent solely with the conservative
agenda of the current Republican administration. An internal memo, issued
last spring, tells employees to destroy research records that are not in
harmony with administrative decisions.

The supervisors even censor dialogue among collaborating scientists. Members
of the scientific branch claim results of critical scientific research,
directly affecting the health of California citizens, are being altered,
destroyed, delayed or suppressed by the management staff at OEHHA, a
division of the state's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to scientists working within the OEHHA, since the appointment of
Richard Becker by Governor Pete Wilson's administration in September of this
year, every subsequent document produced by the department has had to pass a
test of political correctness. In the opinion of the scientific staff in
both Berkeley and Sacramento this policy has far exceeded its stated intent,
'to insure good science'.

Dr. Becker has been portrayed by members of the scientific team as rude and
abusive to his managers and staff, and he is seen as ignoring all input
contrary to his preconceptions. In his appointment speech, Dr. Becker
emphasized the need to prevent any public analyses, a move that prevents
epidemiologists from doing their jobs of informing the public, and abandons
several legislative mandates as well.

Sources within the OEHHA say the morale of the scientific members of OEHHA
has sunk to the point that, according to a scientist who wished to remain
anonymous, "We suspect that Dr. Becker may have been appointed to kill the
organization and prohibit it from doing anything so that it can be
abolished. This would be entirely consistent with Governor Wilson's recent
actions to eliminate other consumer protection groups."

At the beginning of Dr. Becker's tenure he launched the Document Retention
Policy that required destruction of all data produced that was in
contradistinction to political positions. Protests from the California First
Amendment Coalition, a free-expression watchdog group, have erupted over
blanket destruction of scientific research papers. Terry Francke, director
of the group said, "What you have is an overlapping of the domains of
science and politics, and politics is winning."

A memo instituting the Document Retention Policy, issued by the OEHHA,
directed employees to destroy files that were in disagreement with
management's political views. In addition, the memo required that
scientists working on projects not discuss their findings until management
had "reviewed" their work. Under the new policy, all memos and preliminary
findings must pass before censors prior to being sent elsewhere.

Kristen Haynie, spokeswoman for the California Association of Professional
Scientists, the labor union representing the scientific workers in OEHHA,
stated that a memo, written to her by one of the scientists, "was
intercepted by management and sent to the press," presumably to discredit
the dissenting scientist. In the memo Doctor Robert Howd stated to the union
representative that, "Controlling the right of scientists to decide what
will be useful later would attack our professionalism, our honor and the
scientific process itself."

Since this memo was leaked to the Wall Street Journal, meetings have been
taking place to abandon the Document Retention Policy, which requires
overall destruction of research information that disagrees with political
positions. However, public relations professionals have been implanted into
the system to make certain that language in scientific research still meets
political criteria. During a recent meeting, Deputy Director of Scientific
Affairs, Dr. William Vance tried to reach an agreement with the scientific
staff, stating that, "I believe I used poor judgment" in signing the policy
into effect. Although he issued a "clean slate" approach in the future all
that has happened is that new censors have been positioned close to all
research project members.

During the siege at OEHHA three very important studies have been impacted:


Research on tamoxifen, a breast cancer drug, has shown that when the drug is
administered it can frequently cause cancer, as well as act as a
preventative. Sources say certain, "potentially embarrassing records on the
Proposition 65 hassle over tamoxifen" regarding the drug's propensity to
cause cancer were destroyed by a staff worker in the management sector, who
was, according to one manager, "working on his/her own".
Research documents clearly indicated a high risk of breast cancer for
participants in a study among people initially free of breast cancer who
were being given tamoxifen as part of the study. A review board agreed with
the findings and directed OEHHA to post the results according to procedure.
Tamoxifen was to be listed as a carcinogen, as required by Proposition 65, a
California law. When the manufacturer of tamoxifen protested these findings,
the entire listing process was suspended by OEHHA management, "rather than
offend the drug company," said a scientist working with OEHHA. At this time
persons without breast cancer are still being given the drug in a large
clinical trial.


The second case of interference was insistence by the installed censor,
whose position is handling public relations for CAL/EPA, and who has no
scientific expertise, that lead should not be tagged with the word "poison".
However, research indicates that lead doses in "drinking water near the
statistical effect threshold for IQ decreases in children and blood pressure
increases in adults" does, in fact, qualify as "poisoning" according to a
scientist who worked on the project. However, CAL/EPA's public relations
person was adamant that the word poison must be removed from any reports
that indicated the public might be at risk.


When studies in Lompoc, California revealed high cancer rates among
residents directly adjacent to agricultural areas, the supervisor of the
scientists responsible for these findings received a written query from Dr.
Becker asking, "Why did he (a particular scientist) do such a poor job on
the cancer analysis for the Lompoc cancer and birth defects report?" Because
the comparative data showed central city residents with a much lower rate of
sickness, a memo from Dr. Becker was inserted into the official research
papers that indicated the discrepancy was due to "higher elevations," a
factor not valid in the study.

Every year members of the OEHHA scientific community participate in an
off-site informal meeting and picnic. In years past these gatherings have
been focused on "discussion of policies, directions and review of progress"
amongst the staff. The meeting is typically infused with a spirit of
"camaraderie". This year during the entire meeting, attended by 70 or 80
members, no comments were allowed from the floor at all. There were no
discussion periods and no request for staff input. Instead, Dr. Becker
addressed the scientists telling them, "Here's what management is doing for
you and where we're going."

At this time the scientists have taken refuge in their work and are trying
to get the message out to the public that something is wrong at OEHHA.
Meanwhile, management has continued censorship of research papers as well as
speech among colleagues. Travel, training and equipment budgets have been
slashed and individuals have been forced to transfer to other facilities. At
the same time the administrative staff has been enlarged. Further reduction
in the number of scientists seems to be on the agenda of management, since
"overstaffing" announcements by the administrative leader, Olga
Martin-Steele have been made in recent days.

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