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Government Toughens Research Standards

The White House Office of Management and Budget released new guidelines this month concerning the quality of information that can be represented as fact at the federal level.

According to a press release, the guidelines issued by the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs apply to facts, statistics and technological information used by government officials.

With these new restrictions, researchers throughout the nation now will be responsible for producing a higher level of scientific accuracy when conducting research to make sure their findings are acceptable.

"The OMB guidelines released today set in motion a long-term management process aimed at establishing greater accountability for the quality of data that the government uses and disseminates to the public," stated OIRA administrator John Graham in a press release.

But these guidelines have not enjoyed the warmest greeting from researchers.

UNC, long recognized as a leader in research at the college level, also will be affected by the new guidelines.

Tony Waldrop, UNC vice chancellor for research, said the new guidelines would result in additional paperwork.

He also said that the additional monetary expense of the new guidelines are not yet known, though he expects some costs stemming from them.

"It's more about philosophy than anything else," Waldrop said. "The new guidelines call into question the validity of scientific research."

One particular portion requiring that important technological information be reproducible has come under some fire.

This portion will require federal agencies to repeat their experiments and studies if there are complaints from the public.

If agencies find that there are errors in the research, they are allowed to correct those errors.

Some in the research community fear that this might lead to questioning of much of their work.

Because of this the OMB has adopted this portion in interim form at this time to make sure that practical concerns about it have been vetted.

Tony DeCrappeo, associate director of the Council on Governmental Relations, which is an association of research universities, said there had been more than 100 comments on this portion alone.

He said the outcry prompted the OMB to work with the universities and review this portion.

"They've done this to a certain extent, though there are some points that need to be worked out," DeCrappeo said.

"To our minds, the peer review process will satisfy."

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