The Bush administration has interfered with federal scientists on a level never seen before in the history of the United States. The nation was founded on the enlightenment premise that good government can only be based on truth, the scientific method, and the unfettered exploration of nature and humanity.
The emergency of federal censorship of science was explored by the International Association of Whistleblowers (IAW) at its second annual meeting of whistleblowers, May 11- 18, 2008. The kick-off panel, co-sponsored by the IAW, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, addresses the effects of scientific censorship across a wide range of issues, including prescription drug safety, climate change, and mercury emission levels. Panelists include:
o Celia Wexler (Facilitator), Washington Representative, Union of Concerned Scientists
o Rick Piltz, Former Senior Associate, U.S. Climate Change Science Program and Director of GAP's Climate Science Watch Program
o David Ross, FDA drug safety whistleblower
o Tim Donaghy, Researcher/Analyst, Union of Concerned Scientists
Each panelist discussed issues of suppression of science, dissemination of inaccurate information and manipulation of scientific advice under the Bush administration.
"[We] usually talk about federal employees exposing waste, fraud and abuse of authority," said the whistleblower panel's host Celia Wexler of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "But those terms don't really cover what scientists tend to experience," she said. Wexler went on to say that scientists worry about findings being altered and the inability to publish their work, speak at conferences and talk to the media because of political pressures.
Former federal scientists, including David Ross, of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Rick Piltz, formerly of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program discussed political interference in the approval processes for prescription drugs, the editing of climate change documents and the formulation of mercury emissions standards.
Rick Piltz exposed the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming.
Mr. Piltz,resigned in March as a senior associate in the office that coordinates government climate research. That office, now called the Climate Change Science Program, issued the documents that Mr. Cooney edited.
EPA scientists surveyed by the UCS last month expressed similar concerns. Nearly 900 scientists responded to the survey saying that they personally experienced political interference over the last five years.
Doctors and scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Veterans Affairs Administration echoed the statements of the panel.
Eleven-year federal scientist and doctor and IAW co-founder, Dr. James Murtagh, agreed there is a crisis.
“We have not seen the promised land yet,” said Dr. Murtagh. “We have a long way to go. The scientific method does not permit this kind of political pressure. The public pays billions for science, and deserves to have results that are reliable, and not contaminated by political hacks.”
The IAW meeting coincided with whistleblower legislation currently in conference, where House and Senate versions of the bill are being hashed out.
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