Report says questioning scientists about politics and policy is 'inappropriate'
The National Academy of Sciences said it was “inap-propriate” to ask scientists considered for federal government advisory committees their political positions according to a NAS report released 17 November 2004. This is interesting since scientists have a tendency to make public statements with the intent of influencing public opinion about issues, whether they have expertise in the matter or not. As private citizens, a citizen who is also a scientist, has the same right to speak as anyone else. But not all scientists are citizens and a scientist should not speak as a scientist about a matter where they do not have knowledge. This has been a problem.
The appointment of scientists has to include personal information as long as the science community insists on speaking about issues outside of their fields as scientists. Scientific and technical knowledge and credentials are fine, but their professional and personal integrity is often conditioned by their personal opinions, and those things need to be known. Politics and policy opinions do color the advice given by scientists to the government just as it influences their public utterances.
The NAS would like the science adviser to the president to be given the rank of “assistant to the president for science and technology” and nominated to be director of White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. In other words they want the president to abdicate policy control over science and technology. The federal government impaneled nearly a thousand committees last year, about half of which such a person who have had control over. This grab for power would reach into everything from health grant applications to long-range policies affecting public health, bioterrorism and environment. Can America afford to allow any one man to have such power without knowing his politics? I think not. I even want to know his religious perspectives. They make a difference in what he will do.
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