DOE Low Dose Radiation Research Program results relegated to “Wayback Machine”
Here’s an example of how Internet tools pose a challenge for nefarious government officials who want to make inconvenient information from programs initiated by predecessors “go away.”
Low Dose Radiation Research Program Accomplishments
Several months ago, I wrote some articles describing how the Department of Energy’s Low Dose Radiation Research program was systematically defunded and submerged into a larger, less focused program.
Those funding decisions were made about the time when the researchers who had received grants under the program were developing experimental results that challenged the existing radiation regulation paradigm. Some of the experiments — often using sophisticated laboratory devices that enabled researchers to sense specific changes to DNA and other cellular structures — were directly measuring the effects of low dose radiation.
One of the more fascinating aspects of the research was the way that some of the investigations were designed to determine effects over time. They enabled the experimenters to see how repair mechanisms worked and allowed them to determine their dose dependent effectiveness. Here is how responsible people describe the importance of the research conducted under the auspices of the program.
Research from DOE’s Low Dose Program re-examines existing paradigms and provides the results that support the development of new, biological paradigms. One example that challenges an old assumption is the finding that exposure to a low vs. high dose of radiation results in both qualitatively as well as quantitatively different cellular and molecular responses, thus demonstrating non-linear response with respect to dose.
Another is the finding that in addition to high-dose biological damage that may lead to cancer, very low dose radiation exposure may participate in beneficial biological outcomes by stimulation of our natural tissue surveillance mechanisms.
These processes are shaped by physical exposure parameters that include dose, dose-rate and dose-distribution. The research has underscored the importance of the Low Dose Program’s effort to study intact-tissue biological response to a stressor such as radiation exposure, rather than studying only the initial events within an individual cell.
Low Dose investigators were responsible in 2006 for initiation of a highly valued series of International Systems Radiation Biology workshops. Finally, the Low Dose Program has taken a leading role on the world stage in arguing for the critical need for greater communication and coordination between the fields of radiation biology and epidemiology.
What was lost? Who gained?
The skills and techniques developed by participants in the program were quite specialized. When the funding was yanked, the country lost a significant and growing capability. The research teams were disbanded, the mentors had to find new employment, and there were no longer any projects for graduate students to work on.
This was a really harmful and dumb decision; there is no doubt that humans will continue to be exposed to low doses of radiation. There is also no doubt that vast sums of money — measured in billions of dollars per year — will be expended to limit our exposures.
It is cost-effective to spend a few tens of millions per year to add to the body of definitive, experimental evidence that enables us to know what radiation does to receiving individuals. Without that definitive evidence, we are forced by pressure groups to rely on an overly simplified and purposely scary assumption. The assumption, first imposed in June of 1956, asserts that every increment of radiation deposition into tissue adds a finite quantum of risk that is cumulative and never goes away.
The name of the assumption is the linear no-threshold (LNT) dose model. I prefer to call it the “no safe dose” model. I think opponents love to keep the discussion labeled LNT or linear no-threshold because it confuses both outsiders and insiders.
Even though the information from low dose radiation research could save billions of dollars in unnecessary expenditures, somewhere in the hierarchy within the Department of Energy, decisions were made that the program had completed its initially proposed 10-year term and was no longer needed. That’s the kinder interpretation.
Aside: During my undergraduate studies, I learned to recognize the weakness of the passive voice. During my nine years of service as a headquarters bureaucrat, however, I encountered many people who revered the value of passive language. They also loved the “way above my paygrade” shoulder shrug. It was part of the CYOA mentality common among certain spineless wonders. End Aside.
It’s more probable that people who understood the importance of the “no safe dose” assumption in maintaining excessive radiation fear stepped in to ensure that the interest-threatening program disappeared. Its experimental results were threatening their carefully erected radiation protection paradigm by showing that moderate doses of radiation are not harmful and probably provide a modest health benefit akin to regular exercise or balanced nutrition with plenty of vitamins and minerals.
Research documents available via Wayback Machine
A Twitter friend recently asked me what had happened to the Low Dose Radiation Research program web site at lowdose.energy.gov.
@jm_desp The DOE https://t.co/sPiuI2HuhX website seems to be gone. New location? @Atomicrod @nuclear94 pic.twitter.com/TrhE8CaiRB
— Steve Darden (@stevedarden) February 14, 2016
I found the current DOE page discussing the program. Since the program no longer has its own budget line item, it is a subpage under the Biological and Environmental Research (BER) – Biological Systems Science Division (BSSD) – Radiobiology: Low Dose Radiation Research.
The motivation for this article came when I noticed this paragraph on the page.
As of March 2012, the Program has produced 737 peer-reviewed publications. Please visit the Program website for a list of publications and additional discussion of research findings and future directions.
On the DOE page, there is a hyperlink attached to the words “Program website.” Clicking there warns the visitor that they are leaving the Department of Energy and going to an external site.
Not only did the DOE kill the program, but it relegated the papers and summary information produced by ten years worth of government funded research in an important field of endeavor to the Internet’s Wayback Machine. It’s been about a decade since I was last in charge of government owned websites, but there were once rules against hosting government web sites on servers that were not controlled by a responsible agency.
The good news is that the information is available even though some people probably gave orders to make it disappear. They probably did not understand how the non-profit efforts of the people behind the Wayback Machine ensure that information that was once on the web isn’t lost forever.
The bad news is that this is a potentially fragile way to retain access to important information. No one is responsible for ensuring that the archive.org mirror of the the site is ever updated or protected.
Update: (February 19, 2016) I submitted a request for information about the Low Dose Radiation Research Program to the DOE Office of Science. Here is the response I received.
Dear Mr. Adams,
Thank you for your inquiry of February 15, 2016, which has been passed on to me for response.
The Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Congressional Appropriation for the DOE Office of Science includes $2 million for “orderly closeout of Radiological Sciences activities,” including the low-dose radiation research program. As the FY 2016 President’s Budget Request for the DOE Office of Science explained, “Activities within the Radiological Sciences continue to decrease as research within the Biological Systems Science activity is prioritized on bioenergy and environmental research within the Genomic Science activity. Funding levels are reduced as these activities are proposed to be closed out in FY 2016.”
The website for the low dose radiation research program, formerly maintained by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, is now present in archived form on the DOE Office of Science website at https://web.archive.org/web/20150905100153/http:/lowdose.energy.gov/. If you have difficulty accessing that site, please let me know!
Director, Communications and Public Affairs
Office of Science SC-47
US Department of Energy
Visit us at http://science.energy.gov/
Thanks Rod –
It is “a potentially fragile way to retain access” indeed.
My work computer’s owners (my bosses) block access to the web archive.org site. The message I gets warns about potential malware, blah blah blah… But that’s my personal problem.
It really bothers me that taxpayer-funded work gets hidden or lost. After all, we paid for it, we should be able to see it.
I made copies here https://s3.amazonaws.com/hargraves/DOELowDoseRadiation/AdaptiveResponse.ppt etc
This editorial is another example of terrible fiction masquerading as criticism based on facts. If you have time to write so prolifically, then you should have time to do a little investigation and use fewer made-up “probablies” in your stories. When you are so wrong about rather more simple things like the Internet Archive, it calls into question more complicated issues like your positions on radiation and LNT.
Regarding, “It’s been about a decade since I was last in charge of government owned websites, but there were once rules against hosting government web sites on servers that were not controlled by a responsible agency.”
2 words: Clinton’s emails. More words: a lot can change in a decade or less, and “controlled by” has a lot of room for interpretation.
If you cared to investigate just a little, you could find hundreds or thousands of examples of links from .gov sites to archive.org. It starts to make one wonder if the government is “probably” a funder of archive.org.
Regarding, “The good news is that the information is available even though some people probably gave orders to make it disappear. They probably did not understand how the non-profit efforts of the people behind the Wayback Machine ensure that information that was once on the web isn’t lost forever.”
The above is no better than creative fiction. Even worse, it is accusing “some people” of doing nefarious things, or being incompetent or ignorant, without a shred of evidence. Even worse, it’s demonstrably false. In truth, it is a trivial exercise for a site owner to exclude the site from public access in “the Wayback Machine.” A trivial web search would reveal this, if you cared to have facts for your fiction. Clue: archive.org respects robots.txt.
Regarding, “…this is a potentially fragile way to retain access to important information. No one is responsible for ensuring that the webarchive mirror of the the site is ever updated or protected.”
So you think the DOE, who you criticise for their handling of low dose radiation research programs, would do a better job than the Internet Archive at making information available to the public? DOE, who specializes in secrecy, nuclear weapons, and military nuclear programs? All the web is “potentially fragile,” but I’d bet on Internet Archive.
Some more, easily found, background:
“In early 2006, the Internet Archive launched the Archive-It web archiving service (www.archive-it.org) with thirteen pilot partner institutions. Archive-It is a subscription web archiving service that helps partner organizations harvest, build, and manage born digital collections. The partner base has steadily expanded since its launch, with 238 partners in forty-six U.S. States and fifteen countries, as of January 2013.”
First launched in 2006, Archive-It is a subscription service which allows organizations to build and preserve collections of digital content. Through our user friendly web application, Archive-It partners can collect, catalog, manage, access, search and archive their digital information collections. We are a division of the Internet Archive.”
Guess who is a “partner” with Archive-It:
Department of Energy
Archive-It Partner Since: Mar, 2007
Organization Type: National Institutions
Internet Archive is mentioned at least a few times here. They “probably” set some standards, and have some expertise:
How do you think they are collecting and making available all those bomb and other videos? “Probably” the DOE is using Internet Archive’s skills at digitizing. A little web search would confirm this too, but for more entertainment…
…I would highly recommend the classic, Duck and Cover, as well as the not so classic, Breathing Easy: What Home Buyers and Sellers Should Know About Radon.
I’m not sure how “Clinton’s emails” prove anything about the rules associated with government web sites. In fact, I’m pretty sure that her private mail server violated a number of rules that apply to all government employees, even cabinet level appointees.
You also missed my point about the Internet Archive. I think it is a wonderful service. I was calling out the DOE for not maintaining the primary destination for the research program. There is nothing wrong with using the Internet Archive as a back-up, but there is a lot that is wrong with it being the primary repository for the large set of records associated with the Low Dose Radiation Research Program.
Just one example – many network administrators in corporations and government organizations keep a pretty tight reign on allowed destinations. Webarchive.org is not on many whitelists because it has a high possibility of hosting malware. Since people who need to access the information to perform their jobs cannot get to it because of firewall restrictions, the Internet Archive is less capable of serving all information needs. Sure, “the public” may be able to find documents there, but what about researchers trying to find experimental evidence or methods useful in their continuing efforts?
You make a mountain of a mole hill, or web server rules, when people at the highest levels of government disregard the rules, and you “probably” have no idea what the latest rules really are, and don’t care to look them up.
What evidence do you have it is the “primary repository” for the records? It is more “probably” only the chosen method to provide public access, and not some lucky fall-through-the-cracks, against suppression orders, as you portrayed it. We know what suppression of nuclear research looks like – human radiation experiments without informed consent, bomb secrets, and navy reactor secrets.
You can make stuff up and argue all day about what sounds more plausible, or you can actually dig out facts and present real “insights.” From perusing your twitter feed and blog, I can guess which is more “probable.” You do know people at DOE and the Internet Archive have telephones and will answer questions, if it’s not classified.
“Webarchive.org” is a registered domain, but it is non-responsive currently, and “probably” not related to archive.org or archive-it.org of the Internet Archive. Typo or careless inaccuracy? While the Internet Archive does carefully host an archive of malware, your “many network administrators” and “high possibility,” whatever that means, are made up at worst or good guesses at best. Whitelists and blacklists are annoying and fluid, but have mechanisms for being changed, given good reasons, in my experience.
In any case, professional researchers looking for “737 peer-reviewed publications” have more expensive and professional ways of accessing publications, such as libraries and search services. That’s “probably” not what we’re about here, however.
Thank you for the proofreading correction. It should have been archive.org, not webarchive.
I have been asking my contacts at DOE about the conversations that accompanied the decision to defund the Low Dose Radiation Research program. No one is willing to offer more than an “it’s above my paygrade” explanation. At certain levels, the “answer” has been silence.
During the period when I had assigned responsibilities for SECNAV web sites and records management (2001-2005), I spent a lot of time learning the rules. I have a better than fair idea how changeable they are and the directions in which they might change. There is certainly the possibility that I am wrong, which is why I used words like “probably.” Knowing the effort I put into finding and learning the rules when I was inside the system, I have made the judgement that it’s not worth my time to restore my former expertise.
Many more actions have a higher priority. My point in this post is to raise questions and perhaps raise the heat on those who decided that actions like digging test deep boreholes has a higher priority for funding that maintaining a research program to determine the effects of low doses and low dose rates of radiation.
For whatever it’s worth, the annual cost of the low dose radiation research program was less than $20 million, the test boreholes are costing more than $32 million per year.
Investment tax credits for wind turbines and solar systems are running about $5,000 million per year.
When you start with a false premise:
“Here’s an example of how Internet tools pose a challenge for nefarious government officials who want to make inconvenient information from programs initiated by predecessors “go away.””
Credibility is lost, and what follows is suspect.
This is how flawed sources like wikipedia become considered more reliable than sources like this blog. At least wikipedia has some standards and processes for editing and fact checking.
This is also how regulatory processes become slow and adversarial. Applicants demonstrate they cannot be taken at face value, because, to save time and money, they are OK with making guesses and inaccurate statements.
There’s a lot wrong with using the Internet Archive as a back-up. The original website ran on a server using Microsoft asp.net webforms technology. The original relies on dynamically constructing webpages from database(s), and other files. The backup, we can see, consists of files the Wayback machine was able to access by following any website links it found. So there could be a fair bit of the site missing.
It’s a damning indictment of the DoE that they not only defunded the project but made no attempt to ensure the website continued to be hosted. It’s probably the fault of jobsworth bureaucrats.
I’m glad to know we agree. Thanks for providing more detailed information; I was pretty sure the archive wasn’t working like the old site did, but didn’t take the time to find out the specifics.
PS – thank you for adding to my vocabulary. Now I have a one word adjective for bureaucrats who claim “that’s way above my paygrade.”
Although this is my first comment, I’ve learned a great deal in the two or so years since I started reading AI.
A friend if mine who, who I’ve managed to win over to being pro-nuclear, recently announced she’s pregnant. She’s three months along now and understands the hormetic effect low-dose, chronic radiation has on the body. She’s got a few questions that are above my pay grade.
1. How true is the mindset that such a woman should try to avoid acute radiation exposures like flying until she gives birth?
2. Roughly when can she go back to normal behavior regarding radiation exposure, and when can she stop minimizing her child’s exposure?
3. This woman specifically wants to receive (and to have her child receive) a somewhat higher chronic dose of radiation than a typical office worker like her would get. I know about bananas, brick, and granite; I’ve mentioned these to her. Is there anything else she can do to get a larger hormetic effect from radiation?
I quite enjoy reading the posts and comments, but I usually feel a little – intimidated, I guess? – when it comes to commenting.
If you want more hormetic radiation, I’d suggest keeping sacks of calcium chloride ice-melter under the bed. I’m considering doing this myself.
Rather, potassium chloride.
Right – for the potassium-40. Just make sure little kids and pets don’t get hungry.
These are good questions, but you are unlikely to find good answers here.
Except for the first question. Most credible sources would say any radiation risk from a single flight is comparable to what you would get anyway from a week or two without flying; however, fetuses are thought by some to be more sensitive.
On the other hand, some studies show flight crews have “an increase in various malignancies.” This is interesting because they also spend more time at higher altitude, which some say reduces the risk of lung cancer.
People here who claim to believe in radiation hormesis never give specific optimum recommended doses. They do claim radiation worker dose limits should be applied to the general public, including fetuses, without any dosimetry. This is so they can save money by allowing nuclear plants to routinely emit more air pollution, and to call it acceptable to have more severe accidents.
Someone seriously considering low-dose radiation therapy should consult radiation therapy experts, and see what they have to say about the idea. Who knows, there might be a clinical study looking for volunteers.
Flight crews turn out to have an increased incidence of skin cancers.
This is not what you’d get from the whole-body increase in muon exposure at high altitude. It’s what you get from free dead-heading to tropical beaches.
They’re also at greater risk of certain cancers because what they do is essentially shift work.
So then the assumption that they get enough restful sleep is violated with respect to the Ren stage of sleep… okay.
If we suppose there is a hormetic effect in response to a dose of radiation, do you need time to build up your tolerance? That is – I imagine a low dose rate of radiation is similar to someone starting to lift weights. The new person could easily suffer an injury trying to lift a load that a long-time weightlifter could easily and safely lift. Is my analogy accurate?
There is experimental evidence indicating that exposure to “primer” doses of low level radiation reduces the damage from later, much higher doses.
It doesn’t take anywhere near as long for that positive response to occur as the muscle building actions from a sustained program of lifting weights.
Travis – If I recall correctly, the problem is not with sleep or REM sleep. The problem is that disrupting the circadian rhythm interferes with the body’s hormonal production, which leads to an excess risk of cancer. I have the International Agency for Research on Cancer monograph on the topic sitting on one of the shelves in my house if you want any further details.
Rod is correct in his description of one way that hormesis is hypothesized to work. A small dose before a larger dose has a prophylactic effect. Think of it as a booster shot to stimulate the immune system — except that, in this case, it stimulates the DNA repair mechanisms.
You are spot on. The greatest evidence for problems with flight attendants is disruption in circadian rhythm and hormone production, just as it is in shift workers. This is especially true about breast cancer risk believed to be caused by a disruption in Melatonin production.
I doubt that fight attendants are in the air frequently enough and for long enough periods of time to reap any benefits of hormesis.
More than Muons…
“Cosmic radiation in the common cruising altitudes (8,000–10,000 m) consists mainly of gamma and neutron radiation, with some heavy nuclei.”
More than skin cancer…
“Among female cabin crew, a significantly increased incidence was observed for breast cancer [SIR 1.50, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.32–1.69], leukemia (1.89, 95% CI 1.03–3.17) and skin melanoma (1.85, 95% CI 1.41–2.38).
Among men, significant excesses in skin melanoma (3.00, 95% CI 1.78–4.74), nonmelanoma skin cancer (2.47, 95% CI 1.18–4.53), Kaposi sarcoma (86.0, 95% CI 41.2–158) and alcohol-related cancers (combined SIR 3.12, 95% CI 1.95–4.72) were found.”
“Female reproductive cancers, including breast, uterus, and ovary, were significantly more prevalent in flight attendants compared to the general population; flight attendants showed a thirty-four percent greater prevalence of these cancers.”
Flight crews have more than average health problems in several categories.
As usual, results are inconclusive or negative regarding low dose radiation as a cause, but exposures are estimated, not directly measured. Yes, it seems somewhat of a consensus that shift work is “probably” a factor.
Yes, your friend can take a healing vacation at the Free Enterprise Radon Health Mine in Boulder MT. http://www.radonmine.com. We’ve seen pregnancies and the children from pregnancies (not common due to an older crowd, but living proof).
Good to know. Thanks for the detailed answers!
You may want to contact the International Dose Response Society to see if THEY are willing to host the site. It is right up their alley.
Anyone can download the archived website locally using bash or ruby.
Download was 73,514,072 bytes, in 3,095 files. The website structure no longer works even if much or nearly all the content is downloaded. The wayback machine archive is just an archive of content it can retrieve by browsing the original website. The original website ran on the server as Microsoft asp.net web forms and served content from database(s) as well as flat files.
The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory probably has the archive, as they maintained it. Who would have the authority to allow another to host it?
I just sent another inquiry to Mr. Borchelt with the information you discovered. I’ll let you know how he responds.
Not so much discovered as “certainly know”, because I developed such asp.net websites for years. So I can recognise one when I see it. It can fairly be called a partial archive. I bet Mr. Borchelt probably doesn’t know the details of website hosting. No blame on him; he’s public relations.
The main value from the program was the published papers.
If you look at the list, and look at some of the links, you’ll find most are hosted on other sites anyway, where payments may be required.
You don’t have to go farther than the first link to see things you won’t like:
“Abstract: Children exposed to ionizing radiation have a substantially greater breast cancer risk than adults; the mechanism for this strong age dependence is not known. Here we show that pubertal murine mammary glands exposed to sparsely or densely ionizing radiation exhibit enrichment of mammary stem cell and Notch pathways, increased mammary repopulating activity indicative of more stem cells, and propensity to develop estrogen receptor (ER) negative tumors thought to arise from stem cells. …”
Sorry to hear that the low dose radiation program has low priority. Too low limits for radiation exposure translate into enormous costs for isolating spent fuel. and other sources of radiation.
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