2004 Scientist Statement on Restoring Scientific Integrity to Federal Policy Making

Published Jul 13, 2008 Updated Feb 8, 2005

On February 18, 2004, over 62 leading scientists–Nobel laureates, leading medical experts, former federal agency directors, and university chairs and presidents–signed the statement below, voicing their concern about the misuse of science by the Bush administration. Over the next four years, 15,000 U.S. scientists added their names in support of restoring scientific integrity in policymaking.

Now as we work to implement broad reforms, we call upon the president and Congress to create conditions conducive to a thriving scientific enterprise that will serve our democracy with integrity and bring the full fruits of science to all Americans and to the world.

See a list of prominent signatories.

Science, like any field of endeavor, relies on freedom of inquiry; and one of the hallmarks of that freedom is objectivity. Now, more than ever, on issues ranging from climate change to AIDS research to genetic engineering to food additives, government relies on the impartial perspective of science for guidance.

—President George H.W. Bush, April 23, 1990

Successful application of science has played a large part in the policies that have made the United States of America the world’s most powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and healthy. Although scientific input to thegovernment is rarely the only factor in public policy decisions, this input should always be weighed from an objective and impartial perspective to avoid perilous consequences. Indeed, this principle has long been adhered to by presidents and administrations of both parties in forming and implementing policies. The administration of George W. Bush has, however, disregarded this principle. When scientific knowledge has been found to be in conflict with its political goals, the administration has often manipulated the process through which science enters into its decisions. This has been done by placing people who are professionally unqualified or who have clear conflicts of interest in official posts and on scientific advisory committees; by disbanding existing advisory committees; by censoring and suppressing reports by the government’s own scientists; and by simply not seeking independent scientific advice. Other administrations have, on occasion, engaged in such practices, but not so systematically nor on so wide a front. Furthermore, in advocating policies that are not scientifically sound, the administration has sometimes misrepresented scientific knowledge and misled the public about the implications of its policies.

For example, in support of the president’s decision to avoid regulating emissions that cause climate change, the administration has consistently misrepresented the findings of the National Academy of Sciences, government scientists, and the expert community at large. Thus in June 2003, the White House demanded extensive changes in the treatment of climate change in a major report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). To avoid issuing a scientifically indefensible report, EPA officials eviscerated the discussion of climate change and its consequences.

The administration also suppressed a study by the EPA that found that a bipartisan Senate clean air proposal would yield greater health benefits than the administration’s proposed Clear Skies Act, which the administration is portraying as an improvement of the existing Clean Air Act. "Clear Skies" would, however, be less effective in cleaning up the nation’s air and reducing mercury contamination of fish than proper enforcement of the existing Clean Air Act.

Misrepresenting and suppressing scientific knowledge for political purposes can have serious consequences. Had Richard Nixon also based his decisions on such calculations he would not have supported the Clean Air Act of 1970, which in the following 20 years prevented more than 200,000 premature deaths and millions of cases of respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Similarly, George H.W. Bush would not have supported the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and additional benefits of comparable proportions would have been lost.

The behavior of the White House on these issues is part of a pattern that has led Russell Train, the EPA administrator under Presidents Nixon and Ford, to observe, "How radically we have moved away from regulation based on independent findings and professional analysis of scientific, health and economic data by the responsible agency to regulation controlled by the White House and driven primarily by political considerations."

Across a broad range of policy areas, the administration has undermined the quality and independence of the scientific advisory system and the morale of the government’s outstanding scientific personnel:

  • Highly qualified scientists have been dropped from advisory committees dealing with childhood lead poisoning, environmental and reproductive health, and drug abuse, while individuals associated with or working for industries subject to regulation have been appointed to these bodies.
  • Censorship and political oversight of government scientists is not restricted to the EPA, but has also occurred at the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Interior, when scientific findings are in conflict with the administration's policies or with the views of its political supporters.
  • The administration is supporting revisions to the Endangered Species Act that would greatly constrain scientific input into the process of identifying endangered species and critical habitats for their protection.
  • Existing scientific advisory committees to the Department of Energy on nuclear weapons, and to the State Department on arms control, have been disbanded.
  • In making the invalid claim that Iraq had sought to acquire aluminum tubes for uranium enrichment centrifuges, the administration disregarded the contrary assessment by experts at Livermore, Los Alamos and Oak Ridge National Laboratories.

The distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends must cease if the public is to be properly informed about issues central to its well being, and the nation is to benefit fully from its heavy investment in scientific research and education. To elevate the ethic that governs the relationship between science and government, Congress and the Executive should establish legislation and regulations that would:

  • Forbid censorship of scientific studies unless there is a reasonable national security concern;
  • Require all scientists on scientific advisory panels to meet high professional standards; and
  • Ensure public access to government studies and the findings of scientific advisory panels.

To maintain public trust in the credibility of the scientific, engineering and medical professions, and to restore scientific integrity in the formation and implementation of public policy, we call on our colleagues to:

  • Bring the current situation to public attention;
  • Request that the government return to the ethic and code of conduct which once fostered independent and objective scientific input into policy formation; and
  • Advocate legislative, regulatory and administrative reforms that would ensure the acquisition and dissemination of independent and objective scientific analysis and advice.

Statement signers included 52 Nobel laureates, 63 National Medal of Science recipients, and 195 members of the National Academies.

Note: Italicized names are those of the original signers of the statement

National Medal of Science *    
Nobel Laureate †    
Crafoord Prize #
The National Academies ^

Andreas Acrivos * ^
City College of the City University of New York

Edward Adelberg ^
Yale University

Eric Adelberger ^
University of Washington

Peter Agre † ^
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Richard M. Amasino ^
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Don L. Anderson * # ^
California Institute of Technology

Philip W. Anderson * † ^
Princeton University

Nancy C. Andreasen * ^
University of Iowa College of Medicine

John Avise ^
University of California, Irvine

Francisco J. Ayala * ^
University of California, Irvine

David Baltimore * † ^
California Institute of Technology 

Guy Octo Barnett ^
Harvard University

John C. Beck ^
University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine

Michael V.L. Bennett ^
Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Paul Berg * † ^
Stanford University School of Medicine

Robert Bergman ^
University of California, Berkeley

R. Stephen Berry ^
University of Chicago

Rosina Bierbaum
University of Michigan

Pamela Bjorkman ^
California Institute of Technology

Nicolaas Bloembergen * † ^
University of Arizona

Felix Boehm ^
California Institute of Technology

Paul D. Boyer † ^
University of California, Los Angeles

Lewis M. Branscomb ^
Harvard University

Ronald Breslow * ^
Columbia University

Robert H. Burris * ^
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Joost A. Businger ^

John Cairns, Jr. ^
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Hampton Carson ^

David M. Ceperley ^
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Eric Chivian
Harvard Medical School

Joel E. Cohen ^
The Rockefeller University

Hael D. Collins ^
Carnegie Mellon University

Eugene Commins ^
University of California, Berkeley

Eric Conn ^
University of California, Davis

Robert W. Corell
American Meteorological Society

F. Albert Cotton * ^
Texas A&M University

Ernest Courant ^
Brookhaven National Laboratory

James Cronin * † ^
University of Chicago

James Crow ^
University of Wisconsin

James E. Darnell, Jr. * ^
The Rockefeller University

Margaret Davis ^
University of Minnesota

Mark Davis ^
University of California, Berkeley

Johann Deisenhofer † ^
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Robert C. DeVries ^
General Electric (Retired)

Theodor O. Diener * ^
University of Maryland

Carl Djerassi * ^
Stanford University

Paul M. Doty ^
Harvard University

Renato Dulbecco † ^
Salk Institute

Paul Ehrlich # ^
Stanford University

Herman Eisen ^
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Thomas Eisner * ^
Cornell University

S. Walter Englander ^
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

William K. Estes * ^
Indiana University

John B. Fenn † ^
Virginia Commonwealth University

Christopher Field ^
Carnegie Institution of Washington

Gerald D. Fischbach ^
Columbia University Medical School

Edmond Fischer † ^
University of Washington

Val L. Fitch * † ^
Princeton University

Jerry Franklin
University of Washington

Gerhart Friedlander ^
Brookhaven National Laboratory

Jerome Friedman † ^
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Mary Gaillard ^
University of California, Berkeley

Richard L. Garwin * ^
International Business Machines Corporation

Murray Gell-Mann † ^
Santa Fe Institute

George Georgiou ^
University of Texas

John H. Gibbons ^
Former Science Advisor to the President

Walter Gilbert † ^
Harvard University

Donald A. Glaser † ^
University of California, Berkeley

Sheldon L. Glashow † ^
Boston University

Peter H. Gleick ^
Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security

Marvin L. Goldberger ^
California Institute of Technology

Lynn R. Goldman
John Hopkins School of Public Health

Peter Goldreich * ^
Institute for Advanced Study

Roy Gordon ^
Harvard University

Kurt Gottfried
Cornell University

William Greenough ^
University of Illinois

David Grimes
University of North Carolina School of Medicine

Charles Gross ^
Princeton University

William Gross ^
University of New Mexico Engineering School

Keith Gubbins ^
North Carolina State University

Roger Guillemin * † ^
Salk Institute

Robert Hall ^
General Electric (Retired)

Henry C. Harpending ^
University of Utah

Richard Havel ^
University of California, San Francisco

Hans Herren ^
Millenium Institute

Dudley Herschbach * † ^
Harvard University

Joseph Hoffman ^
Yale Medical School, Yale University

Paul F. Hoffman ^
Harvard University

Roald Hoffmann * † ^
Cornell University

John P. Holdren ^
Harvard University

Norman Horowitz ^
California Institute of Technology

H. Robert Horvitz † ^
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

David H. Hubel † ^
Harvard University

John Huchra ^
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

J. David Jackson ^
University of California, Berkeley
 
Daniel H. Janzen # ^
University of Pennsylvania

Leo P. Kadanoff * ^
University of Chicago

Eric R. Kandel * † ^
Columbia University

Anne Kapuscinski
University of Minnesota


Jack Keller ^
Keller Bliesner Eng. LLC and Utah State Univ.

Kenneth H. Keller ^
University of Minnesota

Wolfgang Ketterle ^
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Gerald T. Keusch ^
Boston University

Daniel Kleppner ^
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Walter Kohn * † ^
University of California, Santa Barbara

Arthur Kornberg * † ^
Stanford University School of Medicine

Lawrence Krauss
Case Western Reserve University

Herbert Kroemer † ^
University of California, Santa Barbara

Neal F. Lane
Former Science Advisor to the President

Robert B. Laughlin † ^
Stanford University

Alexander Leaf ^
Harvard Medical School

Leon M. Lederman * † ^
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

David M. Lee † ^
Cornell University

Anthony Leggett † ^
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Sidney Leibovich ^
Cornell University

Simon Levin ^
Princeton University

Gene Likens * ^
Institute of Ecosystem Studies

William Lipscomb † ^
Harvard University

Barbara Liskov ^
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

George Lorimer ^
University of Maryland

Jane Lubchenco ^
Oregon State University

Michael C. MacCracken
International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences

Thomas F. Malone ^
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Geoffrey W. Marcy ^
University of California, Berkeley

 

Lynn Margulis * ^
University of Massachusetts

Paul A. Marks * ^
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Douglas S. Massey ^
Princeton University

James J. McCarthy
Harvard University

Harden M. McConnell * ^
Stanford University

Jerry M. Melillo
Woods Hole Research Center

N. David Mermin ^
Cornell University

Matthew S. Meselson ^
Harvard University

David Michaels
George Washington University

Charles D. Michener ^
University of Kansas

Mario Molina † ^
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

James Morgan ^
California Institute of Technology

Walter H. Munk * ^
University of California, San Diego

Joseph E. Murray † ^
Harvard Medical School

Herbert L. Needleman ^
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine 

Louis Nirenberg * # ^
New York University

Marshall Nirenberg * † ^
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Michael Oppenheimer
Princeton University

Gordon Orians ^
University of Washington

Douglas D. Osheroff † ^
Stanford University

Jeremiah P. Ostriker * ^
Princeton University

George E. Palade * † ^
University of California, San Diego

W.K.H. Panofsky * ^
Stanford University

Eugene N. Parker * ^
University of Chicago

Fabian W. Pease ^
Stanford University

David Perkins ^
Stanford University

Martin L. Perl † ^
Stanford University

Thomas D. Petes ^
Duke University

Gregory Petsko ^
Brandeis University

Norman Phillips ^
National Weather Service

Stuart Pimm
Duke University

David Politzer
California Institute of Technology

Robert V. Pound * ^
Harvard University

Ron Pulliam
University of Georgia

Norman F. Ramsey * † ^
Harvard University

Stuart A. Rice * ^
University of Chicago

Anthony Robbins
Tufts University School of Medicine

John D. Roberts * ^
California Institute of Technology

Wendell L. Roelofs * ^
Cornell University

Allan Rosenfield
Columbia University School of Public Health

John Ross * ^
Stanford University

F. Sherwood Rowland † ^
University of California, Irvine

Janet D. Rowley * ^
University of Chicago Medical Center

Gordon Roy ^
Harvard University

Vera Rubin * ^
Carnegie Institution of Washington

Eli Ruckenstein * ^
State University of New York at Buffalo

Liane Russell ^
Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Jerome L. Sackman ^
University of California at Berkeley

Edwin E. Salpeter # ^
Cornell University

Allan Sandage * #
The Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington

William Schlesinger ^
Duke University

William F. Schreiber ^
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

J. Robert Schrieffer * † ^
National High Magnetic Field Laboratory

Richard Schrock † ^
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr. Steven A. Schroeder ^
University of California, San Francisco

Albert Schultz ^
University of Michigan

Seymour I. Schwartz ^
University of California

Dana S. Scott ^
Carnegie Mellon University

Andrew Sessler ^
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Roger N. Shepard * ^
Stanford University

Robert Silbey ^
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Richard Smalley † ^
Rice University

Franklin Stahl ^
University of Oregon

Jack Steinberger * † ^
European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)

Joan A. Steitz * ^
Yale University School of Medicine

Felicia Stewart
University of California, San Francisco


Albert James Stunkard ^
University of Pennlsylvania 

Henry Taube * † ^
Stanford University

Saul Teukolsky ^
Cornell University

E. Donnall Thomas * † ^
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

William Thurston ^
Cornell University

George Tilton ^
University of California, Santa Barbara

Kevin Trenberth
National Center for Atmospheric Research

Myron Tribus ^
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

George Trilling ^
University of California, Berkeley

Daniel Tsui † ^
Princeton University

Harold E. Varmus * † ^
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Gerald J. Wasserburg # ^
California Institute of Technology

Robert A. Weinberg * ^
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Steven Weinberg * † ^
University of Texas, Austin

Zena Werb ^
University of California

Frank H. Westheimer * ^
Harvard University

Gilbert F. White * ^
University of Colorado

Jennifer Widom ^
Stanford University

Eric Wieschaus † ^
Princeton University

Frank Wilczek † ^
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

E.O. Wilson * # ^
Harvard University

Elizabeth Wing ^
Florida Museum of Natural History

Edward Witten * ^
Institute for Advanced Study

Lincoln Wolfenstein ^
Carnegie Mellon University

George M. Woodwell ^
Woods Hole Research Center

Donald Wuebbles
University of Illinois


Keith Yamamoto ^
University of California, San Francisco

Charles Yanofsky ^*
Stanford University

Herbert F. York
University of California, San Diego

Bruno Zumino ^
University of California, Berkeley


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