Inderscience Publishers

Lost science: effects on environmental risk policy, litigation and due diligence

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When the work of recognised technical experts and the scientific method are abandoned, overlooked, subverted, limited, overruled or otherwise diminished in the development of scientific documents, findings and recommendations, a situation termed 'Lost Science' occurs. Lacking critical information, report findings do not reflect scientific knowledge or realities. This results in skewed recommendations. These, in turn, are used by legislative, judicial and administrative branch decision-makers to make flawed, and potentially harmful or unjust, decisions on issues of public policy, human and environmental health, environmental clean-up or liability. Flawed decisions can have significant impacts on health, economics, environmental justice, remediation and other outcomes. In other words, there are unnecessary costs associated with Lost Science. Strict adherence to the scientific method, and proof thereof, is the primary means to prevent Lost Science problems from occurring. Technical checks and balances can ameliorate the unfortunate trend to limit the nature and scope of scientific inquiries, to pre-determine outcomes, to use unqualified staff to produce technical investigation guidelines, and to alter report goals, methods findings and recommendations. Fortunately, using the principles presented in this article, Lost Science problems can be averted and the public good served.

Keywords: environmental litigation, ethics, risk assessment, science policy, public policy, scientific method, toxicology, environmental risk, due diligence, scientific evaluation process, scientific thinking, standards, pollution control, reclamation

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