December 14, 2006

Really...is it 1984?

New controls on publishing research worry US government geological unit's scientists (International Herald Tribune)

From the article:

..."I feel as though we've got someone looking over our shoulder at every damn thing we do. And to me that's a very scary thing. I worry that it borders on censorship," said Jim Estes, an internationally recognized marine biologist who works for the geological unit. "The explanation was that this was intended to ensure the highest possible quality research," said Estes, a researcher at the agency for more than 30 years. "But to me it feels like they're doing this to keep us under their thumbs. It seems like they're afraid of science. Our findings could be embarrassing to the administration."

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."

[...]

The changes amount to an overhaul of commonly accepted procedures for all scientists, not just those in government, based on anonymous peer reviews. In that process, scientists critique each other's findings to determine whether they deserve to be published.

From now on, USGS supervisors will demand to see the comments of outside peer reviewers' as well any exchanges between the scientists who are seeking to publish their findings and the reviewers.

And there is this:

EPA shortens science reviews, angering some (LA Times)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday streamlined the way it updates regulations for the nation's worst air pollutants, a move that drew immediate charges that officials are trying to quash scientific review to benefit industry at the expense of public health.

The changes, some of which closely mirror requests by the American Petroleum Institute and Battery Council International industry groups, include shortening what is now an exhaustive scientific review, and replacing recommendations prepared by career scientists and reviewed by independent advisors with a "policy paper" crafted by senior White House appointees at the agency.

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