More than 60 prominent scientists are accusing the Bush Administration of manipulating science to serve its political agenda. The researchers--who include an array of Nobel laureates, former National Institutes of Health chief Harold Varmus, and former Republican and Democratic political appointees--today released a statement that calls on politicians to safeguard the free flow of scientific information. But the White House science adviser says the group hasn't provided evidence to back its "conspiracy theory."
The statement was organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. An accompanying report documents more than a dozen cases in which the Administration allegedly suppressed or simply ignored technical findings that don't support its views. For instance, the authors argue that the Administration altered public documents to downplay the impacts of global warming, stacked advisory panels, and muzzled government scientists to silence technical dissent on environmental regulations. "Across a broad range of issues, the Administration has undermined the quality of the scientific advisory system and the morale of the government's outstanding scientific personnel," says physicist Kurt Gottfried, an emeritus professor at Cornell University and chair of UCS.
To "restore integrity" to government science, the researchers are calling on the White House to issue a new executive order to ensure that scientists appointed to advisory panels have solid qualifications and no serious conflicts of interest. They also want Congress to hold tough oversight hearings that examine the Administration's actions, and possibly pass new legislation that would bar the government from censoring nonclassified scientific results.
White House science adviser John Marburger, however, says the critics haven't made their case. "I'm familiar with many of these incidents," he says, "and they don't provide the basis to support the sweeping claims" of manipulation. "It's not legitimate to connect the dots; each one has its own story." And he rejected the call for a new executive order, saying existing policies are adequate "to protect the transparency of the [science advisory] process."
Given the prominence of some of the signers--who include Neal Lane and John Gibbons, his two predecessors as White House science adviser--Marburger says he plans to "reach out to them" and tell the Administration's side of the story.
The statement and report. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) memo is on page 39.
Site operated by House member Henry Waxman about politicization of science by the Bush Administration