"It's an incredible waste," said Barbara Silverstein, an epidemiologist who works for the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, in a Baltimore Sun article on this week's two-day meeting of OSHA's National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics.

Eleven ergonomists boycotted the research symposium, accusing the Bush administration of placing politics before science, according to the article.

In a letter to OSHA, the 11 scientists said the symposium on research findings only rehashed questions already studied and resolved.

Gary Visscher, OSHA's deputy administrator, disagreed, telling the Sun the meeting would cover new ground. "Time passes. There's new stuff coming in all the time," he said.

Public health groups have argued for years that an OSHA ergonomics standard would significantly reduce repetitive motion and cumulative trauma injuries. But many industries contend that the necessary level of proof linking these injuries to work has yet to be established.

By prolonging the scientific dispute, opponents of an ergo standard are blocking any action, critics argue.

"It reminds me of the tobacco controversy of 40 years ago," Dr. Bradley Evanoff, a professor of occupational medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, said in the article.

"I think it's a political show, not a scientific meeting," one boycotter, a university researcher who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Sun. "It's using science in a very cynical way."