SEA: Scientists Standing Up Against Political Interference

Last month, a group of prominent scientists launched the new organization Scientists and Engineers for America (SEA). The organization has already received quite a bit of press (including a nice article in The New York Times, but I would be remiss if I didn't give them a shout out and let readers know how they can help out.

The group is dedicated to supporting science-friendly candidates for public office, pushing for the proper use of science in formulating science policy, and opposing political interference in science. Among the points in its "Bill of Rights for Scientists and Engineers" are that federal policy should be guided by good science, the federal government should not publish false or misleading science, scientists (federal or otherwise) should be able to operate free of government influence, and no scientific results should be censored.

With an important midterm election coming up next month, the formation of such a group couldn't be more timely, and it's a reminder for all of us to make sure that we're supporting candidates who agree with these tenants. Also, with the Democrats well placed to make major gains in both houses of Congress, the potential to override President Bush's abysmal embryonic stem cell policy is looking more and more like a reality.

Scientists and Engineers for America is led by a Board of Advisors that includes quite a few prestigious scientists, many of them Nobel Laureates. It also includes one name that should be particularly familiar around here: science policy analyst and fellow science blogger Michael Stebbins.

If you're interested in supporting this worthy cause, there are a couple of ways you can help out. For those so inclined, the organization recently announced a contest to create a commercial for the group. The details can be found here, and the deadline is October 23rd. In addition, just like any other cause, SEA also relies on the financial support of donors to keep doing its work. To donate, click here. We have an important election coming up, and its important for scientists and nonscientists alike to get involved an make a difference.


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I noticed that toward the end of the Bill of Rights for S&E, it states essentially that scientists should be able to withhold research but that the government can't do it for them. I find this funny because in my own experience, scientists are incredibly selfish and paranoid when it comes to releasing their data or research results other than through a peer-reviewed publication. It isn't because they're worried about someone 'misusing' their research so much as it's their fear that someone else will make a discovery with their data or with their work - robbing them of their shot at the next Nobel Prize. All data, particularly data paid for by taxpayers, should be made public - yet it is the scientists themselves who are particularly stingy in this regard.

Well, you have a point, but I don't know if that's really a major factor. Scientists in general are very keen on publishing their data, for the public or otherwise, through the peer-reviewed system, which is, of course, science's way of regulating the quality of scientific information available. With the advent of blogging (and the Internet in general), I think that more scientists are publishing preliminary results online, but they're doing this in a very controlled manner, and it's not very widespread. There are, of course, cases of scientists who did not want to release or testify about scientific results that they thought would be misused by the current administration. That phenomenon has been well documented.