[Marbled Murrelet: “Hey, over here! Look how cute I am! Forget the CDC scandal, focus on me!”]
Okay: We all know about the forced editing of the CDC testimony. Outrageous stuff–and the kind of misbehavior that just makes the White House look silly and lame. But ask yourself: How much harm resulted here? What was at stake, other than the White House’s (and John Marburger’s) already very damaged credibility?
In a less publicized, but also recently exposed, misuse of science case study, the consequences could be much more dramatic. As this Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial notes, a rather notorious former political appointee in the Fish and Wildlife Service, Julie MacDonald, seems to have had a disturbing impact on “scientific” deliberations at the agency about the status of a threatened (and very cute) seabird, the Marbled Murrelet. The revelations (PDF) come courtesy of EarthJustice, and include things like the following:
On March 22, 2004, Julie MacDonald requested copies of 12-15 publications concerning population trends and relation of logging to murrelets. “She commented that her review indicates continued use/overuse of ‘bad’ data, misuse of these types of data in calculating trends (bias), misstatements about what the article authors actually stated or intended – i.e., a pattern of mistakes (her words) both in the original listing, subsequent reviews, and in EDAW’s report.”
….Julie MacDonald does not want status review to exclude raw data that have not been subject to peer review and explains that such a standard would exclude timber industry research underway that is not intended for publication and thus will not be peer reviewed…Response indicates that nonpeer reviewed data will be considered but greater weight will be given to studies that have been peer reviewed.
I’m a bit mixy about the current status of the murrelet, but it appears that while the bird is still protected, a major document that MacDonald influenced (a Fish and Wildlife Service 5 Year Status Review) is prompting lawsuits and such seeking to have the bird delisted. So says EarthJustice, anyway. I say: Will we ever even know the full extent of improper meddling with science that has occurred under this shameless administration?