A proposed rule change at the EPA is back in the news almost a year and a half after it was first proposed, and it has faced strong pushback from the science community. It’s called the “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science Rule,” and members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee heard testimony on the proposal last week.

The rule would require public health researchers to release their raw scientific data in order for their work to be considered when the EPA sets regulations. These regulations dictate, among other things, how much pollution companies are allowed to release into the air and water.

The EPA declined to make anyone available for an interview, but the agency website states that the goal of the rule is to “ensure that the regulatory science underlying its actions is publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent validation.”

Many researchers say that’s disingenuous. They suggest it's a politically motivated solution in search of a problem, and the actual effect would be to cut important science out of the rule-making process.

“What this would do, really, in practice, is restrict the type of science — mostly public health studies like epidemiological data, for example — from being considered for regulatory actions at the agency,” said Genna Reed, lead science and policy analyst in the center for science and democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

By mandating that all raw data be made publicly available, the rule would bar from consideration many long-term observational studies that collect medical information protected by federal privacy laws, Reed added.

The rule would also require that the EPA review all science to be used in rule-making, a step that Reed argues would be costly, labor-intensive, and unnecessary, as the studies have already gone through peer review.

Reed says the hearing this week made it clear that this proposal is strongly opposed by scientists.

“The panel was made up of several different scientists from different fields, including people who've worked in the transparency world — how to best to make science more open to the public — and every single witness on that panel agreed that the rule, as written, should not move forward,” Reed said. “There is a lot of concern that as written, this rule would effectively restrict the science the EPA can use, which is not a good way for the agency to function.”

The proposed rule is currently under review by the Office of Management and Budget, and Reed says there will be opportunities for public comment before the rule would take effect.