Sunday, July 11, 2010

Politics and science: not just a Bush Administration problem

Some scientists are complaining to the Los Angeles Times that the changes promised by the "science-friendly" Obama Administration from the allegedly anti-science G.W. Bush Administration have not occurred. I don't doubt the President was sincere when he embraced freedom of speech for government-funded scientists and freedom from political interference, but the real world doesn't seem to be there yet.
It's a good reminder that a) government-funded science and politics are not easy to untangle, and b) nothing changes quickly. I think western grasslands biologists have complained (whether justifed or not) of science officially slanted toward the cattle industry under every Administration for the last half-century.
Another thought: It's easy to promote speech that agrees with your policies. Bush took heat from climate scientists who claimed their work had been edited to downplay the evidence for anthropogenic global warming. What would the current Administration do if someone under government pay came up, for example, with research that showed the Administration's policies on halting climate change would not work? Would that research see the light of day? I've no idea of the answer, but it is only fair to ask the question.

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