Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Cannon: NASA Scientists' 'free speech' about Climate Change can be gagged and 'directed by policy.'

With Chris Cannon every issue is 'complicated.' From immigration to the minimum wage--and now its even a scientist's ability to speak freely about....science. According to Rep. Cannon, NASA scientists can't talk about global warming if the Administration doesn't want them to.

Raw Story reported:

....Republicans hammered a NASA director testifying about pressure from the White House, "accusing him of political bias, of politicizing his work and of ignoring uncertainties in climate change science."

Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) issued a startling rebuke to the NASA official, disputing his assertion that taxpayer-funded scientists are entitled to speak freely.

"Free speech is not a simple thing and is subject to and directed by policy," Cannon said, according to the Times.

Are Newton's Three Laws now subject to White House approval?


Anonymous said...

Sadly, I have to agree with the Cannon ... it's NASA - not a university.

Free speech within an organization is not a right.

Truth in politics said...

They are United States scientists. If they can't express what they feel is the truth to the free people of the United States then we are all in trouble.

Maybe you should move to China Anonymous.

7:58 AM

Anonymous said...

Truth in politics...

The courts are on my side on this one.

Richard Watson said...

What is sad is that we are using scientists as political tools.
Science is the discovery of new findings that have not been known to man before. It appears that some believe it is better to have ignorance and politics guide government policy.

Anonymous said...

Federal scientists may gain freedom of speech
By John Timmer | Published: March 15, 2007 - 10:59AM CT

The last few years have seen a regular series of accusations of political interference in scientific communications within US government agencies. These problems reached a crescendo in the George Deutsch incident but have continued unabated, with new reports of potential interference surfacing last week. Although several agencies have issued policy clarifications on science communications, there was no single, codified standard for government scientists to follow.

That may change, as yesterday the US House of Representatives passed a bill, HR 985, that contained a number of clarifications to federal whistleblower rules. These rules are meant to protect employees of the federal government from retaliation if they make public incidents of fraud, mismanagement, and other improper activities within the government. Most of the bill clarifies the legislation in response to court decisions, and defines its scope when it comes to actions within national security agencies or in regards to religious expression within the workplace.

But, buried within the remainder of the bill is a single page (page 28 of the 34-page PDF, for those of you following at home) that contains a section entitled "Clarification of whistleblower rights relating to scientific and other research." It contains four definitions of "abuse of authority as it applies to science," and is worth quoting in full:

any action that compromises the validity or accuracy of federally funded research or analysis;
the dissemination of false or misleading scientific, medical, or technical information;
any action that restricts or prevents an employee or any person performing federally funded research or analysis from publishing in peer-reviewed journals or other scientific publications or making oral presentations at professional society meetings or other meetings of their peers; and
any action that discriminates for or against any employee or applicant for employment on the basis of religion.
Part three seems to be an unadulterated good thing; scientists may freely present their results, even if they run counter to those used to justify governmental policies. Part two also seems good, as some agencies have presented the public with misleading information due to political pressure. But the remaining two parts may actually cause more problems than they solve.

Avoiding religious discrimination is generally a public good, but there are some religious groups that consider the prevailing understanding of science in astronomy, geology, and biology incompatible with their religious beliefs. Would a government agency that expects its employees to be fluent in plate tectonics discriminate if it refused employment to someone who dismissed this branch of science for religious reasons? I fully expect this issue to be tested in court should the bill be passed.

Part one is perhaps more problematic. Scientists regularly disagree regarding appropriate methodology, statistical tests, controls, etc. When do methodological issues rise to the point where they compromise the integrity of the research? Again, the bill leaves this issue unaddressed, suggesting that it will ultimately be decided by the courts.

The bill appears to address many of the controversies that have arisen over the past few years regarding political influences on science, but it also seems likely to stir up a new set of controversies that may cause even more trouble in the future.

Joe said...

It seems to me that the employees of federal agencies ultimately serve the citizens of the United States. If we, as their employers, ask for unbiased information on their findings, we should be able to receive the info directly, not through middle managers (Congress) worried about protecting their own images.

We should encourage scientists to use the media to distribute their findings. The use of mass media is the best channel for distributing information to the greatest number of citizens.

Bryan said...

And we elected this guy back into office......why? We had our chance Utah....should have elected Christian Burridge when we had the chance!