Govt. scientists still being muzzled

NOAA scientists say their work is being edited and held back when administration doesn't like results.
Written by ZDNet UK, Contributor

Back in January, NASA's James Hansen made headlines when he accused administrators and the public affairs office of trying to stop him from speaking honestly about his climate change research. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin later created a policy stopping the practice, which satisfied Hansen and other scientists. Hansen at the time warned, though:

"The battle to achieve open communication between government scientists and their employer, the public, is far from won. Nevertheless, I agree with the opinion of colleagues that the focus should be on discussing solutions to global warming."

Now, the Washington Post reports NOAA scientists are getting the same pressure.

Employees and contractors working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with a U.S. Geological Survey scientist working at an NOAA lab, said in interviews that over the past year administration officials have chastised them for speaking on policy questions; removed references to global warming from their reports, news releases and conference Web sites; investigated news leaks; and sometimes urged them to stop speaking to the media altogether. Their accounts indicate that the ideological battle over climate-change research, which first came to light at NASA, is being fought in other federal science agencies as well.

These scientists -- working nationwide in research centers in such places as Princeton, N.J., and Boulder, Colo. -- say they are required to clear all media requests with administration officials, something they did not have to do until the summer of 2004. Before then, point climate researchers -- unlike staff members in the Justice or State departments, which have long-standing policies restricting access to reporters -- were relatively free to discuss their findings without strict agency oversight.

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