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March, 2003

Unprecedented Blast At Bush By Science Editor Over Political Loyalty
By Jim Scanlon

In a full page editorial in "Science", the most prestigious science journal in the Americas, Donald Kennedy the journal's editor denounced, in no uncertain terms, the Bush administration's practice of subjecting appointees to science study groups to political loyalty tests.

Kennedy was President of Stanford University from 1980 to 1992, a time when Silicon Valley literally exploded into existence around the University. He is a professor of Environmental Science and co-director of the Center for Environmental Science and Policy and was a commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration during the Carter Administration.

Since federal funding is a matter of life and death to practically all scientists, open criticism of the government by anyone, let alone a person of Kennedy's rank and prestige, is rare.

Science published several news stories related to this practice during the fall of 2002. One involved the wholesale replacement of the advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) without even consulting the Director. Other stories involved committees on Lead Poisoning, Human Research Protection, Genetic Testing and Workplace Injuries. The last, involved the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has been regarded with fear and loathing by ultra conservative critics for over 30 years. Bush appointees have often been scientists associated with polluting industries like coal and oil.

Kennedy wrote that, it was not so unusual that the Bush Administration examines candidates for compatibility with its values, but that the practice cuts so deep: "... the current epidemic now invades areas once immune to this kind of manipulation".

A nominee for a committee on Muscular Dystrophy Research is interviewed by a White House Liaison Officer and questioned about her views on Bush Administration policies unrelated to the work of the committee. She is asked if she supports the president's embryonic stem cell policy.

A distinguished professor of psychiatry is questioned by a White House Staffer on "any views that might be embarrassing to the president," on needle exchange and on whether he voted for George Bush. When he answers no, the staffer asks him "Why didn't you support the president?"

Kennedy writes that the Federal Advisory Committee Act requires that committees be balanced with "...no inappropriately influenced by the appointing authority."

President Bush and his staff have made no secret they adhere to, and strongly support fundamentalist Christian beliefs and organizations which are, with a few exceptions, anti science. That is, with the exception of paleontology and petrology which are useful in discovering and exploiting oil.

 

 

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