Restore Scientific Integrity

By Risa Wechsler | September 19, 2005 3:59 pm

From the Union of Concerned Scientists, an announcement that my Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has introduced a bill called the Restore Scientific Integrity to Federal Research and Policy Making Act (S. 1358) (perhaps he’s been reading cosmic variance?) According to the UCS, the bill will:

  • Help prevent the manipulation of data by prohibiting federal employees from tampering with or censoring federally funded scientific research or analysis or directing the dissemination of false or misleading information;
  • Protect government scientists and strengthen whistleblower protections by prohibiting supervisors from threatening or taking action against an employee who is developing or disseminating appropriate scientific research or analysis;
  • Strengthen the independence of federal science advisory committees by banning political litmus tests, requiring that all appointments to science advisory committees be made without regard to political affiliation;
  • Improve transparency of the science advisory process by requiring agencies to disclose in advance: the makeup of the committee, the process for identifying members and selecting members for balance of viewpoints or expertise, any conflicts of interest that members have, and a summary of the way the committee reached conclusions;
  • Promote review of government science by requiring that each agency determine a peer review process appropriate for the agency’s functions and needs, and by eliminating the Office of Management and Budget peer review that may lead to unnecessary cost increases and delays in promulgating new health, safety, and environmental regulations;
  • Establish an annual report to Congress by the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which must address controversies regarding scientific integrity raised during the year, including any federal policy changes related to or administration efforts to promote scientific integrity.

  • All steps in the right direction. They have a handy pre-written letter to send to your senators to ask them to cosponsor the bill, which you can edit as you like.
    Rep Henry Waxman (D-CA), a leader in the fight against politics-tainted science earlier introduced a similar bill in the House, which is still sitting in committee, so a similar letter to your reps is probably in order.

    The UCS also has a sign-on statement for scientists on this general issue, if you are a scientist and interested in showing your support for scientific integrity in policymaking.

    CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and Politics
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    • Mark

      Great work Risa! I’ve written to them alll, with your help. I have one senator (Clinton) who has already signed it, and who I’ve thanked, and another (Schumer) who has heard from me encouraging him to sign it.

    • jprime

      Great stuff! And its about time! I used the UCS website to email my senators, and sent an email to 10 friends urging them to do the same…..ya know, that might not be enough. Think I’ll email my entire list!

    • spyder

      It is important to follow up the emails with a fax, or actual letter. The emails are not read thoroughly, but are counted as yes/no, pro/con in the offices. Letters, and the faxes that UCS provide are read and almost always receive a direct written or email response from the Congressperson or Senator. As someone who have been active in this campaign (and many others) i can tell you that personalizing the first sentence is also useful and important. It takes very little time to do it and makes a world of difference, particularly to those of you who have GOP representation.

      These political abuses are not being done out of ignorance, but to facilitate changes in policies, regulations, and laws at the local and regional levels, while the Federal government dismantles all sorts of safety protocols, environmental protections, and the deterrence to engage as a nation in reckless abuse of the planet.

    • Richard

      The current issue of the AMS Notices (October) has an article about Henri Poincaré, and the article quotes him as saying:

      “Freedom is for Science what air is for animal: deprived of this freedom, it dies from suffocation, like a bird deprived of oxygen. And this freedom must be without limits, because, if one wants to impose limits, one gets a half-science only, and half-science is no longer science. Thought must never be subordinated to any dogma, political party, passion, interest, preconceived idea, to anything indeed, except for the facts themselves, because, for science, to be subordinated means to die.”

      It says that the last sentence is reproduced on the walls of the main building of the University of Brussels.

    • (another) Richard

      I have a question: I’m not a US citizen but I work here. Does that mean I shouldn’t write to my (neighbor’s) senators, or sign this kind of lists etc? I guess I can still donate to worthy causes though, but I once wrote to MoveOn to ask if I could donate and I never got a reply…

    • The Pro-Darwin

      Does that mean I shouldn’t write to my (neighbor’s) senators, or sign this kind of lists etc?

      You can write to anybody that you wish. Don’t say that you’re a citizen if you’re not, but anybody can send a letter to anybody else.

      Also, citizens often write to congresspersons and senators other than, or in addition to, their own.

      I guess I can still donate to worthy causes though, but I once wrote to MoveOn to ask if I could donate and I never got a reply…

      Indeed, there are restrictions on donating to political causes. This is probably borne out of a good idea—you don’t want big foreign influences overrunning your political system—but it stinks for the little guy.

    • (another) Richard

      Yes, Pro-Darwin, that’s what I mean… Of course my potential two- to three-digit donations wouldn’t change much. Guess I’ll go on to write to “my” senators then… 😉

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