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NASA Chief Backs Agency Openness

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    Fw: [fuelcell-energy] ... NASA Chief Backs Agency Openness Source: Copyright 2006, New York Times Date: February 4, 2006 Byline: ANDREW C. REVKIN A week
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 4, 2006
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      ---------- Forwarded Message ----------
      NASA Chief Backs Agency Openness

      Source: Copyright 2006, New York Times
      Date: February 4, 2006
      Byline: ANDREW C. REVKIN

      A week after NASA's top climate scientist complained that the space
      agency's public-affairs office was trying to silence his statements
      on global warming, the agency's administrator, Michael D. Griffin,
      issued a sharply worded statement yesterday calling for "scientific
      openness" throughout the agency.

      "It is not the job of public-affairs officers," Dr. Griffin wrote in
      an e-mail message to the agency's 19,000 employees, "to alter, filter
      or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA's
      technical staff."

      The statement came six days after The New York Times quoted the
      scientist, James E. Hansen, as saying he was threatened with "dire
      consequences" if he continued to call for prompt action to limit
      emissions of heat-trapping gases linked to global warming. He and
      intermediaries in the agency's 350-member public-affairs staff said
      the warnings came from White House appointees in NASA headquarters.

      Other National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists and
      public-affairs employees came forward this week to say that beyond
      Dr. Hansen's case, there were several other instances in which
      political appointees had sought to control the flow of scientific
      information from the agency.

      They called or e-mailed The Times and sent documents showing that
      news releases were delayed or altered to mesh with Bush
      administration policies.

      In October, for example, George Deutsch, a presidential appointee in
      NASA headquarters, told a Web designer working for the agency to add
      the word "theory" after every mention of the Big Bang, according to
      an e-mail message from Mr. Deutsch that another NASA employee
      forwarded to The Times.

      And in December 2004, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
      complained to the agency that he had been pressured to say in a news
      release that his oceanic research would help advance the
      administration's goal of space exploration.

      On Thursday night and Friday, The Times sent some of the documents to
      Dr. Griffin and senior public-affairs officials requesting a

      While Dr. Griffin did not respond directly, he issued the "statement
      of scientific openness" to agency employees, saying, "NASA has always
      been, is and will continue to be committed to open scientific and
      technical inquiry and dialogue with the public."

      Because NASA encompasses a nationwide network of research centers on
      everything from cosmology to climate, Dr. Griffin said, some central
      coordination was necessary. But he added that changes in the public-
      affairs office's procedures "can and will be made," and that a
      revised policy would "be disseminated throughout the agency."

      Asked if the statement came in response to the new documents and the
      furor over Dr. Hansen's complaints, Dr. Griffin's press secretary,
      Dean Acosta, replied by e-mail:

      "From time to time, the administrator communicates with NASA
      employees on policy and issues. Today was one of those days. I hope
      this helps. Have a good weekend."

      Climate science has been a thorny issue for the administration since
      2001, when Mr. Bush abandoned a campaign pledge to restrict power
      plant emissions of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked
      to global warming, and said the United States would not join the
      Kyoto Protocol, the first climate treaty requiring reductions.

      But the accusations of political interference with the language of
      news releases and other public information on science go beyond
      climate change.

      In interviews this week, more than a dozen public-affairs officials,
      along with half a dozen agency scientists, spoke of growing efforts
      by political appointees to control the flow of scientific information.

      In the months before the 2004 election, according to interviews and
      some documents, these appointees sought to review news releases and
      to approve or deny news media requests to interview NASA scientists.

      Repeatedly that year, public-affairs directors at all of NASA's
      science centers were admonished by White House appointees at
      headquarters to focus all attention on Mr. Bush's January
      2004 "vision" for returning to the Moon and eventually traveling to

      Starting early in 2004, directives, almost always transmitted
      verbally through a chain of midlevel workers, went out from NASA
      headquarters to the agency's far-flung research centers and
      institutes saying that all news releases on earth science
      developments had to allude to goals set out in Mr. Bush's "vision
      statement" for the agency, according to interviews with public-
      affairs officials working in headquarters and at three research

      Many people working at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.,
      and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said that at
      the same time, there was a slowdown in these centers' ability to
      publish anything related to climate.

      Most of these career government employees said they could speak only
      on condition of anonymity, saying they feared reprisals. But their
      accounts tightly meshed with one another.

      One NASA scientist, William Patzert, at the Jet Propulsion
      Laboratory, confirmed the general tone of the agency that year.

      "That was the time when NASA was reorganizing and all of a sudden
      earth science disappeared," Mr. Patzert said. "Earth kind of got
      relegated to just being one of the 9 or 10 planets. It was ludicrous."

      In another incident, on Dec. 2, 2004, the propulsion lab and NASA
      headquarters issued a news release describing research on links
      between wind patterns and the recent warming of the Indian Ocean.

      It included a statement in quotation marks from Tong Lee, a scientist
      at the laboratory, saying the analysis could "advance space
      exploration" and "may someday prove useful in studying climate
      systems on other planets."

      But after other scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory queried
      Dr. Lee on the statement, he e-mailed public-affairs officers saying
      he disavowed the quotation and demanded that the release be taken off
      the Web site.

      In his e-mail message, Dr. Lee explained that he had cobbled together
      the statement on space exploration under "the pressure of the new HQ
      requirement for relevance to space exploration" and under a timeline
      requiring that NASA "needed something instantly."

      A string of strong protests was e-mailed from scientists at the lab
      to public-affairs officers shortly after the news release was issued.
      It was provided to The Times on Friday by one person involved in the
      debate, and its authenticity was confirmed by others.

      The press office dropped the quotation from its version of the
      release, but in Washington, the NASA headquarters public affairs
      office did not.

      Dr. Lee declined to be interviewed for this article.

      According to other e-mail messages, the flare-up did not stop senior
      officials in headquarters from insisting that Mr. Bush's space-
      oriented vision continue to be reflected in all earth-science

      In the end, the news release with Dr. Lee's disavowed remark remained
      up on the NASA headquarters public affairs Web site until The Times
      asked about it yesterday. It was removed from the Web at midday.

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      j2997 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fuelcell-energy/
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