Monday, January 30, 2006

Latest Front in the War on Science

A must-read post from Tim F. over at Balloon Juice on new reports of stifled science at NASA (over what else but global warming). Rep. Sherry Boehlert (my own congressman, I hasten to note again) has written a letter to the NASA administrator concerning the issue. Here are some bits from the note:

"It ought to go without saying that government scientists must be free to describe their scientific conclusions and the implications of those conclusions to their fellow scientists, policymakers and the general public. Any effort to censor federal scientists biases public discussions of scientific issues, increases distrust of the government and makes it difficult for the government to attract the best scientists. And when it comes to an issue like climate change, a subject of ongoing public debate with immense ramifications, the government ought to be bending over backward to make sure that its scientists are able to discuss their work and what it means.

Good science cannot long persist in an atmosphere of intimidation. Political figures ought to be reviewing their public statements to make sure they are consistent with the best available science; scientists should not be reviewing their statements to make sure they are consistent with the current political orthodoxy.

is clearly doing something wrong, given the sense of intimidation felt by Dr. Hansen and others who work with him. Even if this sense is a result of a misinterpretation of NASA policies – and more seems to be at play here – the problem still must be corrected. I will be following this matter closely to ensure that the right staff and policies are in place at NASA to encourage open discussion of critical scientific issues. I assume you share that goal."

Boehlert goes on to report that his Science Committee staff is preparing meetings and that he intends to hold hearings on the issue of scientific intimidation. Carry on, Mr. Chairman. We're with you.

[Update: More on this from the NYTimes. -- 1/31, 9:01 a.m.]


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