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EPA cutbacks hurt science: Congress

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) linkurl:closure;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/27334/ of several of its research libraries is flawed, unjustified and is depriving academics, government employees, and the public of crucial environmental data, according to a Congressional report released yesterday (Mar. 13). Of the EPA's 26 libraries, six libraries have changed their hours of operation, and four others have been shut since 2006. These include its Office of Environmental Inf

By | March 14, 2008

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) linkurl:closure;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/27334/ of several of its research libraries is flawed, unjustified and is depriving academics, government employees, and the public of crucial environmental data, according to a Congressional report released yesterday (Mar. 13). Of the EPA's 26 libraries, six libraries have changed their hours of operation, and four others have been shut since 2006. These include its Office of Environmental Information headquarters library and the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics Chemical library, both in Washington, DC. The linkurl:report,;http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08304.pdf issued by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), calls EPA's attempt at cost-saving through reorganizing its library system disorganized and poorly implemented. "EPA's library plan describes the reorganization effort as a 'phased approach,'" the report reads, "but it does not provide specific goals, timelines, or feedback mechanisms that allow the agency to measure performance and monitor user needs to ensure a successful reorganization while maintaining quality services." "To ensure that the network was evolving and keeping pace with newer demands from a growing, diverse customer base, EPA began reexamining its library model in 2003 to identify new ways to deliver library services and meet customer needs in a cost-effective manner," said EPA's chief information officer, Molly O'Neill, in linkurl:testimony;http://democrats.science.house.gov/Media/File/Commdocs/hearings/2008/Oversight/13mar/O'Neill_Testimony.pdf given at a House Science and Technology Committee hearing held yesterday. linkurl:EPA's libraries;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/52884/ are used by local, state and federal agencies to enforce environmental rules, by advocates, members of the public, and researchers to mine environmental data. Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN), chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, was one of four Congresspersons who requested that the GAO conduct the inquiry. "GAO's report paints a grim picture of the current state of EPA's library system. The Agency's modernization effort is characterized by poor planning, failure to communicate with its employees, the public or Congress and failure to protect unique government assets," Gordon said in a statement. "There is only one way to describe the path to this outcome -- gross mismanagement." "Our vision is to be the premier model for the next generation of federal libraries by enhancing our electronic tools to complement our traditional library services," O'Neill testified at the hearing. Though the EPA planned to digitize much of the information in their libraries, the GAO report found that, due to copyright issues, the agency planned to make only ten percent of its library holdings available online. In January of last year EPA issued a moratorium on further changes to its libraries. The GAO report recommends that the agency uphold the moratorium until the agency can better justify its reorganization plan and improve the reorganization process.
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Comments

Avatar of: Patrick Crothers

Patrick Crothers

Posts: 1

March 17, 2008

Open access to information collected on the public's behalf must remain free. Does this agency think it can fool the scientific comunity. This seems more like an effort to conceal rather than create an economic move.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 23

March 18, 2008

If the EPA want to be taken seriously as scientific institution. They need to do more than slap the hands of researchers that fudge and falsify data to get the results that they want.\n\nScattering Lynx scat, Spotted Owl signs in areas they didn't inhabit. With holding calcium from birds when DDT didn't thin the egg shell as they thought it should. Writing papers after some one gets egg on their face for quoting papers that don't exist. Is not the way to build confidence in an organization.\n\nI am sure the EPA does good work as well. But their detractors blow up their lapse in judgment and failure to drum the people that do fraud out of their ranks for serious error as a their standard operating procedure. When one has been burned by the EPA by one of their questionable operations it is hard to notice the good they do.\n\nMaking the EPA stand true peer review under management of USDA would go a long way to start them on the road to respectability. As long as the EPA is run at the top by political administrators and not scientist it is hard for many to have any respect for them. That's not just the top man but the majority of the administration that needs good solid back ground in hard science not the watered down environmental degrees that have sprung up over the world in the last 20 years.\n\n

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Mettler Toledo
BD Biosciences
BD Biosciences