Freedom of Speech in Government Science (Perspectives) (Viewpoint Essay) - Issues in Science and Technology

Freedom of Speech in Government Science (Perspectives) (Viewpoint Essay)

By Issues in Science and Technology

  • Release Date: 2008-01-01
  • Genre: Engineering
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Freedom of Speech in Government Science (Perspectives) (Viewpoint Essay) Issues in Science and Technology Book Review Score: ★★★★★ 5/5 stars

Since the early 1990s, researchers, scholars, journalists, and professional organizations have published hundreds of articles, books, and reports on the ethical problems related to industry-funded science, addressing such concerns as conflicts of interest, suppression of data and results, ghost authorship, and abuse of intellectual property laws. Although the investigative spotlight has focused on privatized science in the past 15 years, government science has received relatively little attention until recently. Three important publications--the Union of Concerned Scientists' report Scientific Integrity in Policy Making, Chris Mooney's book The Republican War on Science, and Seth Shulman's book Undermining Science--have highlighted some of the ethical problems, such as limitations on free speech, politicization of scientific advisory panels, conflicts of interest, and bias, that can occur in government science. According to Mooney, President George W. Bush's administration has attempted to prevent government scientists from expressing their views about global climate change. James E. Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), said that public affairs staff members were reviewing his upcoming lectures, papers, media interviews, and Web postings. Hansen accused NASA administrators of trying to censor information that he planned to share with the public. NASA officials denied this accusation, claiming that Hansen's public statements were not given special scrutiny and that all NASA scientists must have their media interviews reviewed by public affairs staff members to ensure coordination with the administration's policy statements. Hansen countered that the administration was trying to intimidate him and that it had taken similar actions to prevent other researchers from communicating with the public about global warming.

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