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E-M:/ Censoring science

Enviro-Mich message from Larry Nooden <ldnum@umich.edu>

This is a story that needs to be out in full public view for the sake of democracy (and for economic reasons), even if not for the scientific issues involved.

The news media are finally starting to talk about the role of the Bush administration in suppressing science, i.e., suppressing publicly-funded research results that are inconvenient for their financial benefactors even if the public interest is sacrificed. The story is also told in more detail in a recent book: Censoring science: Inside the political attack on Dr. James Hansen and the truth of global warming by M Bowen, Dutton Press (2008).

The Bush administration was caught "red-handed" in this activity, but that did not inhibit them from trying fairly successfully to suppress the data and the voices of the researchers on the plight of the polar bears.

Excepting for the Justice Dept. fiasco, I think the public is not aware of the extent to which underqualified or unqualified political proxies have been appointed to lead key government agencies. This is particularly problematic in science-based agencies (especially environmental units), where these appointed leaders have hired people to extend their reach. The motivation seems to be ideology and/or political patronage. I think the hirees will be difficult to remove even after the appointees are gone.

The journal Science does make an attempt to summarize what the presidential candidates are saying (or not saying) about how they would handle scientific matters in: Science 319: 22-31 (2008). They have also identified some of the top scientific appointments and their chances of reappointment [Science 319: 17 (2008)], but that will depend on the extent of regime change (presidency and congress) coming.

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