Scientists Say White House Bends Research to Policy

By Guntzel, Jeff | National Catholic Reporter, May 21, 2004 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Scientists Say White House Bends Research to Policy

Guntzel, Jeff, National Catholic Reporter

"Sound science" is a Bush administration phrase that has, until recently, largely evaded mainstream pundits. The president and his administration, however, have insisted since first taking office that sound science is the foundation on which rests a growing list of often-controversial policies.

With what is already a tight presidential race underway, the Bush administration's handling of scientific information in policymaking--from climate change to condom use--is surfacing as a critical issue.

Earlier this year, an open letter signed by 62 prominent U.S. scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates and a handful of science advisers to past Republican presidents, accused the administration of sifting scientific data through a political screen and of bending government agencies to conform with White House policy.

"Although scientific input to the government is rarely the only factor in public policy decisions," the letter opens, "this input should always be weighed from an objective and impartial perspective to avoid perilous consequences." The group said the Bush administration has "disregarded this principle."

"When scientific knowledge has been found to be in conflict with its political goals," the letter asserted, "the administration has often manipulated the process through which science enters into its decisions."

The letter was issued by the left-leaning Union of Concerned Scientists, a science and science policy think-tank best known for its work on nuclear proliferation and a host of environmental concerns.

Dr. Kurt Gottfried, chair of the union, calls the letter "unprecedented." Critics call it partisan politics.

But many of the signers had no affiliation with the organization and are not all pre-disposed adversaries of the sitting administration. Speaking at the National Press Club recently, the world-renowned sociobiologist E.O. Wilson defended his signature on the letter while remembering President Bush's 2000 campaign as "inspiring."

And for at least one signer, Harvard professor of science and public policy and former adviser to the Nixon White House Lewis Brandscomb, signing this letter of protest was a first.

Buttressing the letter's assertions was a 46-page report released simultaneously by Union of Concerned Scientists detailing what it calls the "suppression and distortion of research findings at federal agencies," and the undermining of the "quality and integrity of the appointment process." (See accompanying article.)

"A growing number of scientists, policy makers and technical specialists both inside and outside the government," the report claims, "allege that the current Bush administration has suppressed or distorted the scientific analyses of federal agencies to bring these results in line with administration policy.... The quality and breadth of these charges warrant further examination, especially given the stature of many of the individuals lodging them."

While drawing some of its information from interviews with current and former government scientists; the union report leans heavily on media investigations.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Scientists Say White House Bends Research to Policy


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?