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Following Science
Does Oregon need an Independent Scientific Review Board?

In 2015, the Oregon Legislative Assembly enacted SB 202 establishing the Task Force on Independent Scientific Review for Natural Resources. The Task Force evaluated and assessed the need for independent science reviews in Oregon and made recommendations to the Governor and appropriate legislative committees.

In 2017, SB 198 was introduced and would have created a permanent Oregon Independent Science Review Board. However, it only received a single public hearing and never moved out of committee. During the hearing, several natural resource organizations submitted joint testimony in opposition to the bill. They shared that “While we appreciate the Task Force's effort to design an independent and unbiased scientific review process for Oregon, given the extraordinary difficulty of eliminating perceived bias, we are highly skeptical that this process will produce any kind of consensus around answers to politically charged "high impact" questions”.

Currently, Representative Holvey (D-Eugene), believes that SB 198 from 2017 deserves to be revisited and has introduced HB 2386. The bill is almost identical to the 2017 legislation. It is summarized as:

“Establishes Oregon Independent Science Review Board. Establishes Independent Scientific Review Secretariat as administrative section within the Institute for Natural Resources at Oregon State University. Establishes Independent Scientific Review Fund. Continuously appropriates moneys in fund to Higher Education Coordinating Commission for distribution to Oregon State University for purposes of board and secretariat. Declares emergency, effective on passage”.

The bill received a hearing earlier this month and was again opposed by the same group of natural resource advocates as in 2017. The major concerns were similar but also emphasized the current climate that Oregon is facing. “Ultimately, this board risks becoming another place for special interest advocates to pursue changes to public policy by seeking the endorsement of a board appointed by a political office,” the coalition concluded.

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

William Edge from Oregon State University, who was on the original 2015, taskforce stated in testimony that “The task force concluded that most single agency scientific reviews can be met with existing State, Federal and academic resources, but we did find that review practices and capacity for conducting quality reviews varied substantially among agencies”. The last statement he made were the same concern that the coalition, in opposition to the bill, had when raised when they stated, “The bill language fails to provide the board with direct oversight, limits to discretion, performance standards, legal obligations or overall best practices for scientific review”. Therefore, it appears that the concerns of Edge regarding agency lack of best practices are also the concerns of those opposed to the bill.

Several legislators asked questions of Edge during the testimony around, how things would be handled since science does not always agree, how industry experts would report to this board, and how the board would assess validity. Representative Susan McLain (D-Hillsboro) raised a concern that encompassed many of these feeling when she asked, “There are scientists all over the world and one panel of scientists in Oregon being the only place for us to have what we are considering to be ‘the science board’ or ‘the blue-ribbon board’, causes me some concern."

The bill is currently scheduled for a work session in the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources on March 30 at 3:15pm.


--Terese Humboldt

Post Date: 2021-03-29 21:35:19Last Update: 2021-03-29 21:45:52



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