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MSU professor abruptly dismissed from EPA science review board

May 8, 2017

The Trump administration has dismissed some of the scientists who performed scientific reviews for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Robert Richardson, an ecological economist at Michigan State University, was one of the 18 members of the Board of Scientific Counselors from across the country. On Friday, he was notified that he was being dismissed.

Richardson joined Stateside to talk about what exactly the Board of Scientific Counselors does and what this dismissal could mean.

The board reviews scientific outputs from EPA scientists within the office of research and development. This includes peer-reviewed journal articles, research posters and decision support tools, all with the goal of making sure that the science that these scientists are presenting to the EPA is sound. Based on the research that is presented, the board then gives specific recommendations on the direction of research and development. 

"The agency feels that it's important to get outside peer reviewers, so these are largely practicing scientists, some members of industry and municipalities," Richardson said. "They seek feedback from this board in order to ensure that it's conducting science that is in support of the agency's mission which is to protect human health and the environment."

It is unclear how many members of the board have been dismissed, but according to a report in The New York Times, the number is as many as five. 

What does this mean for the future of the board? 

"It would seem that, as [the Trump administration has] stated, they are interested in breaking with the previous administration ... articles have been quoted saying that they seek a clean break from the previous administration and to invite members from industry who can better understand the impacts of regulations on the regulated community."

Richardson doesn't see how changes to the board will impact regulations for corporations. 

"The science advisory boards are advising on scientific research and we have no connection to the regulatory operations of the agency," Richardson said.

Listen to the full interview above to hear more about how the Board of Scientific Counselors operates and how Richardson was informed he was being dismissed.

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