How to Protect Scientific Integrity and Business Interests

In 2000, the Washington law firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft defined the implications of the Shelby Amendment, which requires that all data produced by federally supported scientists at nonprofit institutions be publicly available through the Freedom of Information Act.

The Shelby Amendment (named for its primary sponsor Sen. Richard Shelby, (R-Ala.) passed the U.S. Congress in 1998 at the urging of some business organizations that sought a way to challenge scientific studies underpinning costly regulations and lawsuits.

Scientists, however, expressed concern that the Shelby Amendment might be used to harass and intimidate them as they undertook research with potentially expensive implications for business—such as the health effects of smoking.

Key Results

  • The project team concluded that:
    • Key federal agencies, especially the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health, remain unprepared for aggressive data requests under the Shelby Amendment.
    • The agencies hope to be able to handle Shelby requests with existing Freedom of Information Act staff within existing budgets.
    • Industry will vigorously pursue both an expanded reading of Shelby and data production under the law when controversial scientific findings are involved.
  • The project team prepared an article entitled "Scientific Advocacy and Scientific Due Process," which appeared in the journal Issues in Science and Technology. The article outlined the history, background and implications of the Shelby Amendment for the scientific community. It also:
    • Suggested an alternative approach to the Shelby Amendment.
    • Proposed the creation of a nonprofit group to defend the interests of scientific researchers.