The Government Role in Scientific Research: Who Should Bridge the Data Gap in Chemical Regulation?
John S. Applegate
Indiana University Maurer School of Law
RESCUING SCIENCE FROM POLITICS, Wendy Wagner, Rena Steinzor, eds., Cambridge University Press, July 2006
Scientific information is a central concern of all regulation, especially the regulation of toxic chemicals. Information is both a prerequisite to regulatory action, and an object and collateral effect of the regulatory system itself. Regulatory systems, in other words, both demand and supply information. The demand side of chemical regulation has been explored in detail, and the dearth of such information (the "data gap") has been well documented. This essay, which will appear as a chapter in Rescuing Science from Politics Wendy Wagner & Rena Steinzor, eds. (Cambridge Univ. Press, forthcoming July 2006), addresses instead the supply question - who should generate the information that regulatory systems require. Specifically, it asks who, as between the regulated industry and government, should generate it, and under what circumstances. The essay reviews the reasons for preferring private generation and the reasons for concern about the amount and quality of chemical information from this source. It concludes that regulated enterprises must be the baseline source of chemical information, but that there are several specific areas in which governmental generation should be preferred. They include types of information which are subject to structural market failure (thus precluding effective private generation), as to which the government has a comparative advantage as generator, and for which a governmental source is essential to the credibility of the information.
Keywords: environmental regulation, data gap, government-sponsored research
JEL Classification: K32, H11
Date posted: June 11, 2006