The Union of Concerned Scientists is real concerned

The BBC reports on another Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) complaint about the politicization of science. Curious Cat John Hunter notes the PSA in the entry
The A to Z Guide to Political Interference in Science. The complaint from UCS is that

in recent years, however, scientists who work for and advise the federal government have seen their work manipulated, suppressed, distorted, while agencies have systematically limited public and policy maker access to critical scientific information. To document this abuse, the Union of Concerned Scientists has created the A to Z Guide to Political Interference in Science.

And the comment about this sad state of affairs is reasonable:

My belief is that improving the science and engineering infrastructure of a country (which includes promoting open and honest debate of scientific data and a culture that discourages political suppression scientific data) is very important for economic well being. And with so many countries moving forward to take advantage of this opportunity to improve their economies if a country fights to suppress science it will pay the price.

The problem is, of course, that neither the BBC nor the UCS have clean noses in this arena. Both have indicated a clear political agenda and this is a part of it. The fact is that science is a human activity and that means that “observer bias” is always a part of any honest research because it always exists. Science is also a peer reviewed and public activity which means the government can do very little to supress ideas. What the government does do is to invest huge sums into research and that is a problem. It has always been a problem.

The government chooses what research it thinks is a worthwhile use for its money. The BBC/UCS complaint is not to try to educate the people who make the decisions about what they think is the most productive use of money – rather they allege conspiracy and complain that they are being victimized. John concludes on this line:

How much public money to devote to science and engineering fellowships is a political decision that greatly impacts science. Exactly what laws should be adopted to slow global warming is a political decision. The problem is not that politics and science can’t interact but how that interaction takes place.

A first step would be to show a proper recognition for this reality and then also to acknowledge that it is not new but rather a part and parcel of the political process. Those who impy otherwise should raise the skeptics suspicions about their arguments.

Comments are closed.