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20.02.2004 34

Government bends, hides facts, say scientists

60 leading researchers, including Nobelists, detail suppression under Bush

By David Kohn
Sun Staff

February 19, 2004

Alarmed by what they call the "suppression and distortion of science" by the Bush administration, more than 60 top scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, issued a scathing report yesterday detailing instances in which government agencies allegedly stifled legitimate research.

Written by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the study included a range of allegations that: the EPA hid data supporting the existence of global warming; the Department of Agriculture muzzled research that might have damaged large-scale hog farming; and the administration stacked scientific advisory panels with politically biased members.

"This is absolutely unprecedented. There's something irrational about what this administration is doing," said retired Cornell physics professor Kurt Gottfried, chairman of the UCS board.

The report, "Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: An Investigation into the Bush Administration's Misuse of Science," did not uncover new episodes of alleged tampering, but it did add previously unknown details - some from government scientists who had not spoken out before.

"Its major purpose was to show how comprehensive and widespread these practices are. It's the overall picture that is most distressing," said one of the signers, Rice University physicist Neal Lane.

Lane is a former director of the National Science Foundation, as well as the presidential science adviser during the Clinton administration.

President Bush's top science adviser disputed the report and called it disappointing.

"It makes sweeping generalizations about policy that are based on a random selection of incidents. I don't think these incidents add up to a case," said John Marburger, a physicist and director of the Federal Office of Science and Technology.

He called the signers "distinguished scientists and educators" but said they had misinterpreted the evidence.

Each of the incidents in the report had an innocent explanation, he said: "In all of these cases there is a supportable reason for taking these actions."

The report's backers questioned his claim. "It's quite apparent that scientific decisions are being made by political appointees," said one of the signers, Lynn Goldman, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Goldman, who oversaw regulation of pesticides and toxic chemicals for the EPA during the Clinton administration, said many of her former EPA colleagues were demoralized by rampant political interference.

Marburger, who said he had no plans to discuss the report with the president, defended Bush's views on research. "The president is quite supportive of science. He understands that science is the basis of innovation," he said.

Among the allegations included in the report:



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