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Policy

CONCERNED SCIENTISTS

Scientific leaders say Administration has undermined science

by BETTE HILEMAN
February 23, 2004 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 82, ISSUE 8

Rowland
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Credit: PHOTO BY BETTE HILEMAN
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Credit: PHOTO BY BETTE HILEMAN

A statement by more than 60 prominent scientists and an accompanying report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), issued last week, charge the Bush Administration with undermining the integrity of science in policy decisions.

Marburger
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Credit: PHOTO BY PETER CUTTS
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Credit: PHOTO BY PETER CUTTS

But Bush's science adviser, John H. Marburger III, director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, delivered an equally harsh criticism of the report, saying it makes "sweeping accusations" that are not supported and appear politically motivated. He said incidents and issues the report mentions do not add up to the Administration seeking to undermine the processes of science.

The group of scientists led by UCS includes 20 Nobel Laureates, 19 winners of the National Medal of Science, heads of leading universities, and former federal agency directors. They say President George W. Bush and his staff have systematically distorted scientific information to further policy goals in health, the environment, and nuclear weaponry. "The public deserves rational decision-making based on the best scientific advice about what is likely to happen, not what political entities might wish to happen," said Chemistry Nobel Laureate F. Sherwood Rowland, one of the signers.

Kurt Gottfried, emeritus professor of physics at Cornell University and chairman of the board of UCS, said: "The Bush Administration has engaged in practices that are in conflict with the spirit of science and the scientific method, leading to growing and widespread concern in the American scientific community."

Marburger convened a hasty phone-in press briefing last week to respond to the report. While he strongly took issue with its substance, he conceded that the Bush Administration seems to have foundered in its communication with the scientific community.

"The President is quite supportive of science," Marburger insisted, adding that he has no plan to discuss the report with Bush or to follow the report's recommendation for an independent investigation of how science has fared in the Administration.

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