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Report says federal scientific panels packed with ideologues

Report says federal scientific panels packed with ideologues

A report released Thursday by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a group of more than 4,000 researchers, including 48 Nobel Prize winners and 127 members of the National Academy of Sciences, accuses the Bush administration of distorting and suppressing science to support its political goals, including packing dozens of scientific panels with political ideologues. "Across a broad range of policy areas, the Administration has undermined the quality and independence of the scientific advisory system and the morale of the government's outstanding scientific personnel," the scientists said in a letter. The report, titled "Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: Further Investigation of the Bush Administration's Misuse of Science," lists a number of areas where the Administration either flatly ignores scientific evidence or rejects scientific advice to suit its political purposes, including abstinence education, condom use, stem cell research, and contraception. The report also says the Administration has denied some scientists appointment to advisory panels because their political beliefs don't mesh with the White House's positions. For example, Gerald Keusch, former director of the National Institutes of Health's John E. Fogarty International Center for Advanced Study in the Health Sciences, says the Administration rejected 19 of 26 candidates for the center's board, including a Nobel Prize winner, because the candidates did not share many of Bush's political views. One center board nominee was allegedly rejected because she supports abortion rights; another was rejected because his name was printed in a letter criticizing the Bush administration for manipulating science for political purposes. Other nominees say they were asked a number of "leading political questions" by Health and Human Services staff members after being nominated for the board, only to have their appointments ultimately rejected by the White House. Nominee Richard Myers of Stanford University told Reuters he was even asked his personal opinion of the president. "There is no doubt in my mind that these questions represented a political litmus test," he said. Some scientists say the Administration's rejection of scientific research and political manipulation of scientific agencies may ultimately force government scientists to abandon their work and enter the private sector, a move that could cripple government-backed research for years. The White House rejected the report's conclusions, calling them "sweeping generalizations based on a patchwork of disjointed facts and accusations that reach conclusions that are wrong and misleading," said White House science adviser John Marburger. He also said the Administration "strongly supports" science and has increased federal funding for scientific research and development by 44% since 2001.

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