Top Scientists Want Research Free From Politics | 16Set2011 20:04:50
Leading U.S. scientists called on Congress Thursday [Mar 2008] to make sure the next president does not do what they say the George W. Bush Administration has done: censor, suppress and falsify important environmental and health research. [...]
Among the more than 15,000 government scientists signing onto the statement are Harold Varmus, preesident of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre and former director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and Anthony Robbins, professor of medicine at Tufts University and former director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
"Although surely the worst, the Bush Administration is not the first, nor will it be the last administration to mistreat and misuse science and scientists," Robbins said. The White House itself has been directly involved in the suppression and falsification of science, Robbins stressed.
But interference from the White House is just part of the problem, said Francesca Grifo, a former government researcher and now a director at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Industry lobbyists are all over government agencies, trying to influence research that will impact their corporations, she said. "These special interest groups are being given access at the highest level."
"Government scientists have had their findings subjected to censorship and misrepresentation," said Kurt Gottfried, professor of physics at Cornell University and a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "The public and Congress have often been deprived of accurate and candid scientific information."
"The pursuit of science in an open society has had a long and fruitful tradition in America," Gottfried said. "Unfortunately, this tradition has been violated in recent years by the government itself."
Another: Government's funding framework breeds scientific conformity
Here is a list of beliefs in the biomedical and climate sciences that must not be questioned if you're applying for a government grant:
- That global warming is caused by humans;
- That AIDS is caused by a virus;
- That radiation, cigarette smoke and other toxins are dangerous in proportion to their strength, no matter how small the dose;
- That heart disease is caused by saturated fats;
- That cancer is caused by mutations.
This is part of a list offered by a University of Washington professor of surgery, Donald W. Miller, who is a heart surgeon at the VA Medical Center in Seattle. Miller believes that all the above ideas may be false, and ought to be tested. [...]
But much of science runs on government money. Some people find the stink of bias only in private money, and see government as free of it, but they are mistaken. Government likes certain beliefs. To get its money, you have to get the approval of the scientists it selects, and you are less likely to get it if they think your idea wrong.
What that means, Miller says, is that "If you say low doses of radiation aren't bad for you, or that global warming is due to variations in the sun, you can't get funded."
He says this happened to University of California scientist Peter Dues-berg [sic], who challenged the viral theory of AIDS, and to Harvard's Willie Soon, who challenged the pollution theory of global warming, and to others. In a paper published in 2007 in the Journal of Information Ethics, Miller argued that conformity is built into the system of government grants. [...]
In 2005, in the scientific journal Cellular and Molecular Biology, Pollack made an argument similar to Miller's. American science, he wrote, has become "a culture of believers" whose rule is, "just keep it safe and get your funding."
For science, the result has not been good. [...]
Thomas Kuhn, the philosopher of science, argued famously that science progresses in revolutionary bursts, in which the "dominant paradigm" is overturned. But what if the supporters of the dominant paradigm are the people vetting your application?
Thu, 27 Mar 2008