Shutting Down Science

In Scientific American:

In January 2001 the New England Journal of Medicine published a study showing that reducing salt in the diet could lower blood pressure, even in people without hypertension. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which funded the study, quickly posted a press release on its Web site announcing the findings.

The Salt Institute, an industry group, was stung by the study’s results. Unable to challenge the data on scientific grounds, the institute found another way to attack them. It filed a petition under the Data Quality Act–a law ironically intended to ensure that regulations are based on solid science–arguing that the findings did not meet the act’s standards and that the heart institute had therefore broken the law by posting them…

It was the first time the right to petition in court under the Data Quality Act was challenged, but it will most likely not be the last. Nobody keeps an exact tally, but something like 100 Data Quality Act petitions have been filed with dozens of different government agencies. Most have been initiated by industry groups, disputing scientific reports that could lead to tougher regulations. If subsequent petitions are accepted by the courts, the litigation could tie up government reports indefinitely, long before their data could lead to any government action.