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Inconsistent Information Policies Jeopardize Research, Panel Says

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  • npat1
    Fw: [fuelcell-energy] ... Inconsistent Information Policies Jeopardize Research, Panel Says By ANDREW C. REVKIN WASHINGTON, June 8 — The quality and
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 9, 2006
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      Fw: [fuelcell-energy]
      ---------- Forwarded Message ----------
      Inconsistent Information Policies Jeopardize Research, Panel Says
      WASHINGTON, June 8 � The quality and credibility of government
      research are being jeopardized by inconsistent policies for
      communicating scientific findings to the public, says an independent
      group of scientists that advises Congress and the White House.

      The group, the National Science Board, examined the issue at the
      request of Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. Mr. McCain
      sought the review in February after Civil Service workers and
      scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and
      other agencies complained publicly that political appointees had
      interfered with efforts to discuss global warming and other
      controversial issues.

      The board canvassed an array of agencies like the space agency and
      the National Institutes of Health and found a lack of clear,
      consistent guidance to scientists and press offices on releasing
      information to the public and the news media.

      In recent months, the board found, NASA and the National Oceanic and
      Atmospheric Administration have taken "steps in the right direction."
      But it said other agencies continued to lack consistent standards.

      Where policies exist, the board said, they are often focused more on
      restricting scientists' ability to discuss their findings than on
      guaranteeing a free flow of information.

      The board's review, written as a letter to Mr. McCain, was posted
      last month on the Web site of the National Science Foundation and has
      been noted by several Web publications and trade journals focused on
      science policy.

      Asked to comment on the report, a spokesman for the White House
      Office of Science and Technology Policy replied in an e-mail message
      that the office had "discussed the issue of communications policy
      with agency chief scientists shortly after the NASA incidents which
      are cited in the senator's letter, and we continue to monitor agency

      "We think the NASA response was excellent," the spokesman, Benjamin
      Fallon, wrote, "and have distributed it to the agencies as an example
      of a best practice and have not seen evidence that the situation
      requires the development of a mandatory one-size-fits-all policy."

      The scientific board acknowledged that agencies were entitled to keep
      track of what their scientists were saying. But it recommended that
      the White House science office develop a common set of principles
      encouraging open communication of science and discouraging "the
      intentional or unintentional suppression or distortion of research

      The report said that at most agencies policies were out of date,
      unclear or handled in different ways by different field offices.
      Clear guidelines, it added, could reduce confusion.

      The lack of uniformity appears to cause other problems, said Warren
      M. Washington, a senior scientist at the National Center for
      Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., who is the chairman of the
      science board and the lead author of the report.

      "The constant turnover of upper-level staff meant the policies were
      constantly changing depending on who is boss or who the midlevel
      supervisor was," Mr. Washington said in an interview.

      Mr. McCain, a senior member of the Committee on Commerce, Science and
      Transportation, inserted an amendment into a bill last month
      reflecting the science board's findings. The amendment calls for the
      White House science office to create a "set of principles"
      encouraging the "open exchange of data and results of research by
      federal agency scientists."

      The bill has not been sent to the Senate floor for a vote.



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