Roger Pielke Jr.: US science and politics

Roger irritates advocates of all political leanings — because he keeps insisting on the facts. Such as this essay, which highlights just a few of the Bush/Obama administration cases of “political interference”:

Why have a number of areas of US science become so politicized?

One answer to this question is that those concerned about science in politics have ceded discussion of issues of science policy to the most overtly partisan, many of whom see science as nothing more than a convenient tool to extract political advantage. This dynamic manifests itself in the overwhelming selectivity of attention among those who purport to be concerned about science in politics.

Consider a few examples:

Remember when James Hansen was told that his access to the media would be limited and controlled by minders at NASA? Of course you do. It has been a talking point for years.

But what about when the Obama Administration recently muzzled scientists and other officials at the Department of Health and Human Services? If you frequent the science corner of the blogosphere you might have missed it (though if you visit the conservative-o-sphere you may have seen it). Here is what one long-time journalist said about the policy:

The new formal HHS Guidelines on the Provision of Information to the News Media represent, to this 36-year veteran of reporting FDA news, a Soviet-style power-grab. By requiring all HHS employees to arrange their information-sharing with news media through their agency press office, HHS has formalized a creeping information-control mechanism that informally began during the Clinton Administration and was accelerated by the Bush and Obama administrations.

AAAS? Chris Mooney? Crickets. Remember when the Bush Administration was accused of couching its ideological preferences in the name of science in order to prohibit research on stem cells? Well, of course you do.

But what about the Obama Administration’s hiding its decision to close Yucca Mountain behind science? As President Obama’s spokesman explained:

“I think what has taken Yucca Mountain off the table in terms of a long-term solution for a repository for our nuclear waste is the science. The science ought to make these decisions.”

Read the whole thing »