Bringing Science and Law Together to Create Intelligent Policy
The National Institute for Science, Law, and Public Policy (NISLAPP) was founded in 1978 to bridge the gap between scientific uncertainties and the need for laws protecting public health and safety. Its overriding objective is to bring practitioners of science and law together to develop intelligent policy that best serves all interested parties in a given controversy. Its focus is on the points at which these two disciplines converge.
The constantly evolving nature of scientific research, together with the accelerated pace of technological advancement, has drawn into question the reliability of the information on which decision makers in both government and industry rely. Many of the innovations that have led to the development of new products and processes have also raised significant new health, safety, and efficacy issues for consumers. NISLAPP's mission is to help reconcile the historic and political vagaries of the legal process with the absence of "absolute" scientific answers in addressing immediate and long-range consumer concerns. Rather than attempting a definitive resolution of such problems, this approach is aimed at encouraging honest interplay to help promote autonomous arrangements in areas of health and public safety.
To this end, attorney, author and consumer advocate James S. Turner, a cofounder of the organization, and other staff members have served as a source of enlightenment to the consumer movement, industry and public policymakers alike. Their attempts to apply common-sense criteria to common-good concerns have included speeches, testimony at Congressional hearings, FDA petitions, legal actions, cosponsoring of regulatory and judicial initiatives, and collaboration with selected industry representatives, as well as participation in government-sponsored events and co-sponsoring or supporting events at the grassroots level.
Typical of the organization's efforts to propel consumer issues into the legislative arena is its campaign to allow dental patients access to information on mercury-free procedures via the Consumer Dental Choice Project. The initiative's aim is to overcome restrictions that effectively prevent dentists from initiating conversations with consumers about such options or even discussing the health risks of mercury amalgams with them. The project is but one example of NISLAPP's ongoing work to bridge gaps in education and information regarding scientific and medical technologies, focusing on what we do know and what can be extrapolated from that, rather than demanding unequivocal levels of certainty before safeguards can be erected.
In keeping with another of its efforts -- the campaign for a safe American food supply – NISLAPP has continually endeavored to acquaint consumers with the dangers of the artificial sweetener aspartame or (better known by the brand names Nutrasweet and Equal). The organization regards its as vital that the public understand why there has always been a question in the minds of scientists and many FDA employees, about its approval process, and that consumers know something of the thousands of adverse-reaction complaints associated with this chemical additive now found in so many 'diet" products. The NutraMancer City Web Site Project is one of NISLAPP's endeavors to aid the public in finding out more about the effects of aspartame, enabling people to report any problems they have encountered with aspartame use, become acquainted with its problematic history, and read about the scientific and medical issues involved in the debate.
It is NISLAPP's intent to continue to make such knowledge available to American consumers, forge dialogue between parties who may see themselves as diametrically opposed to each other's interests, and reconcile legal and scientific concerns in the formulation of intelligent, safe and sensible public policy.