Committee on Science and Technology
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Investigations :: April 28, 2005

Integrity and Science

“Scientific progress occurs when we foster the open exchange of ideas and information.”

 - Rep. Bart Gordon

The relationship between politics and science has been of concern to Members of the Democratic Caucus. With the publication of the report Scientific Integrity in Poliy Making by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in February 2004, the issue became acute.  The UCS report described a number of instances where science used by Federal agencies to make policy was altered to achieve desired political outcomes.  The Director of the Office of Science and Technology policy, Dr. John Marburger, took issue with the UCS report and declared to Congress:

... Regarding the document that was released on February 18, 2004 by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), I believe the UCS accusations are wrong and misleading.  The accusations in the document are inaccurate, and certainly do not justify the sweeping conclusions of either the document or the accompanying statement.  I believe the document has methodological flaws that undermine its own conclusions, not the least of which is the failure to consider publicly available information or to seek and reflect responses or explanations from responsible government officials. ...

It was another issue in Dr. Marburger's response to Congress on the UCS report that caught the attention of Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Brian Baird. Dr. Marburger stated:

... I have discussed the issue of advisory committees with the agencies mentioned in the UCS document and am satisfied with the processes they have in place to manage this important function. I can say that many of the cited instances involved panel members whose terms had expired and some were serving as much as five years past their termination dates. Some changes were associated with new issue areas for the panels or with an overall goal of achieving scientific diversity on the panels. Other candidates may have been rejected for any number of reasons - this is ordinary for any Administration. ...

Ms. Johnson and Mr. Baird requested a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study in early 2004. Members of Congress regularly ask GAO (the investigative arm of Congress) for independent and nonpartisan reviews of Federal programs, policies and expenditures. Johnson and Baird asked GAO whether the Administration had suppressed Federal scientific data in favor of more politically beneficial outcomes. GAO responded in April 2004 with ‘best practices’ that Federal agencies should follow in their research activities to insure impartiality and the integrity of their findings. The Administration has refused to endorse GAO’s recommendations.

Democrats on the Science Committee are not alone in their concern for the integrity of scientific research. Rep. Henry Waxman, Ranking Democrat on the Committee on Government Reform, has been equally diligent in examining the use of science for policymaking in the Federal agencies. Based on their work, Ranking Members Gordon and Waxman collaborated on the introduction of H.R. 839, the Restore Scientific Integrity to Federal Research and Policymaking Act, in February 2005. More information on the Caucus's work can be found below.

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