Benefits and Costs of Public Access to Data Used to Support Federal Policy Making

Congress is considering two bills that would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make publicly available all data from studies that it relies on as it develops regulations. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that it would cost $250 million per year for the EPA to comply with such a requirement. As an alternative to these bills, the Obama administration points to an Office of Science and Technology Policy directive requiring that agencies spending more than $100 million per year on research issue plans to maximize public access to federally funded data. We show that this directive has not been implemented by the EPA and that there is good reason to question the validity of scientific research when the data used to create it is not publicly available. Furthermore, there is good reason to believe that the CBO significantly overestimated the cost of the bills. We recommend that all regulatory agencies generally provide public access to the data they rely on to develop economically significant regulations.

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