Friday, December 15, 2006


This is pretty frightening stuff:

The Bush administration is clamping down on scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the latest agency subjected to controls on research that might go against official policy.

New rules require screening of all facts and interpretations by agency scientists who study everything from caribou mating to global warming. The rules apply to all scientific papers and other public documents, even minor reports or prepared talks, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Top officials at the Interior Department's scientific arm say the rules only standardize what scientists must do to ensure the quality of their work and give a heads-up to the agency's public relations staff.

``This is not about stifling or suppressing our science, or politicizing our science in any way,'' Barbara Wainman, the agency's director of communications, said Wednesday. ``I don't have approval authority. What it was designed to do is to improve our product flow.''

Product flow? That term tells you all about how science is viewed by this administration: as a product, something to be tinkered with, depending on the demands of the market which in this case is the wingnuts.

And it gets worse:

The new requirements state that the USGS's communications office must be ``alerted about information products containing high-visibility topics or topics of a policy-sensitive nature.''

The agency's director, Mark Myers, and its communications office also must be told - prior to any submission for publication - ``of findings or data that may be especially newsworthy, have an impact on government policy, or contradict previous public understanding to ensure that proper officials are notified and that communication strategies are developed.''

Patrick Leahy, USGS's head of geology and its acting director until September, said Wednesday that the new procedures would improve scientists' accountability and ``harmonize'' the review process. He said they are intended to maintain scientists' neutrality.

``Our scientific staff is second to none,'' he said. ``This notion of scientific gotcha is something we do not want to participate in. That does not mean to avoid contentious issues.''

It used to be called censorship. But wait, there is more:

At the Environmental Protection Agency, scientists and advocacy groups alike are worried about closing libraries that contain tens of thousands of agency documents and research studies. ``It now appears that EPA officials are dismantling what it likely one of our country's comprehensive and accessible collections of environmental materials,'' four Democrats who are in line to head House committees wrote EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson two weeks ago.

Democrats about to take control of Congress have investigations into reports by The New York Times and other news organizations that the Bush administration tried to censor government scientists researching global warming at NASA and the Commerce Department.

Sounds like the old Soviet Union, it does.