Tabling Science

Imagine a world where the current administration actually takes
the advice of its leading scholars and scientists. We might have an
effective plan for tackling global warming. The drugs our sick take
might be safer. The air we breathe might be cleaner. But those
ideas seem almost unfathomable in the midst of the Bush
administration’s systematic manipulation of scientific analyses
generated by agencies such as the National Academy of Sciences and
the Food and Drug Administration.

The Union of
Concerned Scientists
is determined to put the science back into
the reports that have been through the administration’s wringer.
The group has an
ongoing program to shed light on federal
attempts to sidestep scientific integrity for the sake of policy
positions. Since 2004, more than 10,000 scientists — including
more than 50 Nobel laureates — have signed its petition calling on
President Bush to, among other things, ‘return to the ethic and
code of conduct which once fostered independent and objective
scientific input into policy formation.’

Now comes the latest and perhaps most publicly accessible weapon
in the group’s arsenal:
an ‘A to Z’ guide chronicling the
government’s suppression with a periodic table of seedy
elements. More than 50 reports of misinformation are organized
by color, date, and element. Take ‘Vo’ — for school vouchers —
as an example. If you click on that ‘element’ you’ll learn that
‘[i]n July 2006, Department of Education officials announced a
$100 million proposal to fund vouchers for poor children to
attend private schools, while at the same time keeping quiet
about a study released just days earlier that showed private
schools to be no more effective at educating children than
public schools.’

Select ‘L’ — coded orange for ‘pollution and contamination’
category — and you’ll get the details on the closure of some 27
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) libraries (hence the ‘L’)
before budget cuts had actually been authorized by Congress. The
budget cuts, which asked for an 80 percent slash, limited access to
scientific information that could critically impact the United
States by placing it beyond the reach of government scientists and
independent researchers — not to mention the public. ‘We think
this is one of several actions the Bush administration is taking to
lobotomize the EPA, to reduce its capability, so it’s much less
able to independently review industry submissions,’ Jeff Ruch,
executive director of Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility
, a Washington-based nonprofit that advocates for
federal environment employees, told the
Christian Science Monitor.

That sentiment has been echoed across disciplines among those
concerned that science is no longer driving scientific policy. As
Dr. Peter Gleick, president of the
Pacific Institute
for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security
, told the
BBC, ‘It’s very difficult to make good
public policy without good science, and it’s even harder to make
good public policy with bad science.’

Go there >>
A to Z Guide to Political Interference in
Science

Go there, too >>
Scientific Integrity Program

And there >>
As EPA Libraries Go Digital, Public Access
Suffers

And there >>
US Scientists Reject Interference

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