The A to Z Guide to Political Interference in Science
Posted on December 14, 2006 Comments (3)
In recent years, however, scientists who work for and advise the federal government have seen their work manipulated, suppressed, distorted, while agencies have systematically limited public and policy maker access to critical scientific information. To document this abuse, the Union of Concerned Scientists has created the A to Z Guide to Political Interference in Science.
In 2004, 62 renowned scientists and science advisors signed a scientist statement on scientific integrity, denouncing political interference in science and calling for reform. On December 9, 2006, UCS released the names of more than 10,000 scientists of all backgrounds from all 50 states—including 52 Nobel Laureates—who have since joined their colleagues on this statement.
It is important for the public to have access to type of information. There will always be areas of intersection between science and politics. And there is a role for politicians in science policy. However, covering up data and attempts to promote unscientific conclusions from data, in order to serve political ends, is something that should be condemned. Certainly many will seek to turn political disagreements into condemnation of the opposition, so the mere accusation is not the important factor – the important factor is the evidence of wrongdoing. Then the facts should be debated.
My belief is that improving the science and engineering infrastructure of a country (which includes promoting open and honest debate of scientific data and a culture that discourages political suppression scientific data) is very important for economic well being. And with so many countries moving forward to take advantage of this opportunity to improve their economies if a country fights to suppress science it will pay the price.
How much public money to devote to science and engineering fellowships is a political decision that greatly impacts science. Exactly what laws should be adopted to slow global warming is a political decision. The problem is not that politics and science can’t interact but how that interaction takes place.
While the engineering credentials of China’s leadership is noted often, it is still interesting to note that China’s 9 most senior government officials are all engineers. A Technocrat Riding a Wild Tiger:
That has got to make a difference: having lawyers or engineers thinking about what the value of science is.