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Scientific Integrity in Policy Making 7/04

Further investigation of the Bush administration's abuse of science

This page is part of the introduction from the July 2004 update to the February 2004 UCS report Scientific Integrity in Policymaking.
 

On February 18, 2004, 62 preeminent scientists including Nobel laureates, National Medal of Science recipients, former senior advisers to administrations of both parties, numerous members of the National Academy of Sciences, and other well-known researchers released a statement titled Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policy Making. In this statement, the scientists charged the Bush administration with widespread and unprecedented "manipulation of the process through which science enters into its decisions." The scientists' statement made brief reference to specific cases that illustrate this pattern of behavior. In conjunction with the statement, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released detailed documentation backing up the scientists’ charges in its report, Scientific Integrity in Policy Making.

Since the release of the UCS report in February 2004, the administration has continued to undermine the integrity of science in policy making seemingly unchecked. Many scientists have spoken out about their frustration with an administration that has undermined the quality of the science that informs policy making by suppressing, distorting, or manipulating the work done by scientists at federal agencies and on scientific advisory panels. For instance, Michael Kelly, a biologist who had served at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service for nine years, recently resigned his position and issued an indictment of Bush administration practices. As Kelly wrote, "I speak for many of my fellow biologists who are embarrassed and disgusted by the agency's apparent misuse of science."1

Scientific Integrity in Policy Making: Further investigation of the Bush administration's abuse of science investigates several new incidents that have surfaced since the February 2004 UCS report. These new incidents have been corroborated through in-depth interviews and internal government documents, including some documents released through the Freedom of Information Act. The cases that follow include:

  • egregious disregard of scientific study, across several agencies, regarding the environmental impacts of mountaintop removal mining;
  • censorship and distortion of scientific analysis, and manipulation of the scientific process, across several issues and agencies in regard to the Endangered Species Act;
  • distortion of scientific knowledge in decisions about emergency contraception;
  • new evidence about the use of political litmus tests for scientific advisory panel appointees. These new revelations put to rest any arguments offered by the administration that the cases to date have been isolated incidents involving a few bad actors.

Concern in the scientific community has continued to grow. In the months since the original UCS report, more than 12,000 scientists have signed onto the scientists' statement. Signers include 52 Nobel laureates, 62 National Medal of Science recipients, and 195 members of the National Academy of Sciences. A number of these scientists have served in multiple administrations, both Democratic and Republican, underscoring the unprecedented nature of this administration's practices and demonstrating that the issues of scientific integrity transcend partisan politics.

The United States has an impressive history of investing in and reaping the benefits of scientific research. The actions by the Bush administration threaten to undermine the morale and compromise the integrity of scientists working for and advising America's world-class governmental research institutions and agencies. Not only does the public expect and deserve government to provide it with accurate information, the government has a responsibility to ensure that policy decisions are not based on intentionally or knowingly flawed science. To do so carries serious implications for the health, safety, and environment of all Americans.

Given the lack of serious consideration and response by the administration to concerns raised by scores of prominent scientists, UCS is committed to continuing to investigate and publicize cases—corroborated by witnesses and documentation—in which politics is allowed to stifle or distort the integrity of the scientific process in governmental policy making. UCS—working with scientists across many disciplines, other organizations, and elected officials—will also seek to develop and implement solutions that will protect government scientists from retribution when they bring scientific abuse to light, provide better scientific advice to Congress, strengthen the role of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, strengthen and ensure adherence to conflict of interest guidelines for federal advisory panels, and ensure full access to government scientific analysis that has not been legitimately classified for national security reasons.

Download the July 2004 report.


1. Michael Kelly’s resignation letter is available online at http://www.peer.org/california/kellyresignation.html.

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