I bring of the subject of political interference in science so much that I’m starting to sound like a broken record. By this point, it’s pretty much a topic that needs no introduction around here, so we’ll just dive right in.
In the ongoing struggle against political interference Michael Stebbins of Sex Drugs & DNA reports that Representative Brad Miller (D-NC) has introduced a scientific integrity amendment to HR 5450, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Act, which is currently under consideration in the house. HR 5450 was introduced on May 22nd by Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), but, according to Sex Drugs & DNA (which has been a great source of Washington insider info on science policy lately), was pulled from consideration after Miller introduced his amendment. The bill may be considered again on June 14th, and its future will apparently depend on what kind of compromise Miller is able to reach with House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY).
As Stebbins points out, this amendment goes leaps and bounds beyond the McCain amendment to the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (S 2820), which was approved by the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on May 18th. The McCain amendment calls on the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (currently John Marburger) to “encourage the open exchange of data and results of research by Federal agency scientists” by creating a “set of principles for the communication of scientific information by government scientists, policy makers, and managers to the public.”
The Miller amendment, although only applicable to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is much more specific and comprehensive. It prohibits NOAA employees from tampering with or censoring the results of scientific research or disseminating false or misleading scientific information. It also prohibits political affiliation from being considered in appointing members to advisory committees “unless required by Federal statute,” and sets further requirements to ensure objective and accurate advice not hampered by conflicts of interest.
In light of this, Stebbins describes this as “the most comprehensive attempt to ensure that accurate scientific information and advice comes out of the administration and would be a tremendous step forward for the scientific community and the public.”
How can anyone argue with that? If the Republican leadership continues to prevent this amendment from going forward, it will just go to show that any talk coming out of the Republican leadership about supporting science is purely lip service.
Update 14 June 2006: The amendment has been voted down. See this post.