7 No. 1
science and art of memory
of emotional events, especially aversive ones, tend to attach themselves
to anything around them.
Ressler Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Center for Behavioral
in a weird way is about the future. . . . It's the sense that it's
probably going to happen again.
Bammer, Associate Professor, Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts
My Return to the Chair
Identity and academic sacred
space in Middle Eastern and South Asian studies
Gordon D. Newby, Professor and Chair, Middle Eastern and South
for Bird Brains
An unconventioal frontier
for understanding social behavior
Donna Maney, Assistant Professor of Psychology
Politics of Advice
Biased scientific information
in government agencies
Mike Kuhar, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Neuropharmacology
How intellectual initiatives
form and flourish
Paul Jean, Associate Director of New Research Initiatives, Emory
College Office of Research, and Daniel Teodorescu, Director of Institutional
Research, Office of the Provost
of us have heard the charges that the Bush administration has been
stacking scientific advisory committees and misusing or selecting
scientific information for its own ends. Perhaps the best summary
of the evidence for this was presented in a March 2004 publication
by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) titled “Scientific
Integrity in Policymaking,” but there are other sources as
well, from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and ideological experiences.
Controversy around an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report,
for example, sparked much commentary. In June 2003 an article appeared
on the front page of the New York Times alleging that White
House officials urged the epa to alter information in a report on
climate change. A thousand-year record on temperature change was
deleted, with the effect of giving weight to a more recent and limited
analysis that supported the administration’s view. Other references
to scientifically respected studies were reportedly deleted, while
a reference to a discredited study of temperature records funded
by the American Petroleum Institute was allegedly inserted.
A recent proposal by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) also
may jeopardize the integrity of the scientific advice the government
receives. The OMB has proposed a rule that would centralize control
of the review of scientific information needed for federal policy
making at OMB. It would prohibit most scientists funded by an agency
from being a peer reviewer, presumably for that agency. It would
permit, however, scientists employed or funded by industry to serve
as reviewers. Anthony Robbins, a professor of public health at Tufts,
says in the UCS report that the change “would radically restrict
access to scientific advice at the government agencies on whom we
rely to protect public health.” The law, specifically the
Federal Advisory Committee Act, requires federal advisory committees
to be balanced and free of influence by appointing authorities.
experienced and influential individuals have spoken out on what
seems to be a trend in biasing science and the advisory culture.
• In a letter to the New York Times, Russell Train,
the EPA administrator under Presidents Nixon and Ford, stated that
the Bush administration undermined the epa and that their degree
of manipulation was virtually unprecedented.
• A government official involved with getting permission to
reproduce a brochure on greenhouse gas emissions stated anonymously
in the UCS report that “in nearly fifteen years of government
service, I can’t remember needing clearance from the White
House for such a thing.”
• Donald Kennedy, editor of Science and former Food
and Drug Administration commissioner and president of Stanford,
was quoted in the Los Angeles Times saying, “I don’t
think any administration has penetrated so deeply into the advisory
committee structure as this one, and I think it matters. If you
start picking people by their ideology instead of their credentials,
you are inevitably reducing the quality of the advisory group.”
• Republicans for Environmental Protection noted in a press
release that the “withholding of vital environmental information
is getting to be a bad habit with the Bush Administration”
(online at www.repamerica.org).
• Lewis Branscomb, President of the American Physical Society,
was quoted in the Christian Science Monitor saying, “I’m
not aware that [Nixon] ever hand-picked ideologues to serve on advisory
committees, or dismissed from advisory committees very well-qualified
people if he didn’t like their views. . . . What’s going
on now is in many ways more insidious. . . . It happens behind the
curtain. I don’t think we’ve had this kind of cynicism
with respect to objective scientific advice since I’ve been
watching government, which is quite a long time.”
This sampling of criticism makes it clear that reputable and experienced
people think something relatively new is going on, or that it is
happening to a greater degree than in previous administrations.
If so, it could shape priorities at research universities, particularly
in areas where government funding has an influence.
In the New York Times and Chronicle of Higher Education,
however, John H. Marburger III, Bush’s science adviser, has
denied charges that the administration has slanted science to serve
its own interests. He says the administration strongly supports
science, increasing spending on research and development by 44 percent
Bush administration is undoubtedly acting in “good faith,”
in accordance with what it believes. Is it holding itself to high
standards and requiring more data before it commits itself to support
various proposals? Does it believe that advisory committees should
be broader in scope in the interest in fairness? Perhaps, but the
testimonials and events described above suggest that something of
concern is going on.
We may be entering an era when administrations extend
their political influence down to science policy and selection of
science advisors. Selecting only the expert advice and input the
administration wants to hear is dangerous and must be avoided. We
expect administrations to be fair, open to expert information, and
lawful, and we expect them not to cater to special interests. It
can be difficult to deal with many kinds of administrations; they
have power over peoples’ lives, and they can legally, defensively,
and even paradoxically justify much.
In this case, there is an election looming that gives us a choice.
But if administrations begin to get comfortable with this emerging
pattern, a change in political leadership may not be enough.