285 NASA scientists and engineers sign statement of support for Jim Hansen and open public dialogue

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As of noon on March 16, 285 NASA scientists and engineers have signed a “Statement of support for NASA’s commitment to openness.” The statement “fully supports Dr. Hansen in his professional capacity to continue alerting the public about global warming” and encourages “all NASA affiliated scientists and engineers to openly present their expertise for the public good.”

The full text of the statement:

Statement of support for NASA’s commitment to openness:

NASA Administrator Dr. Michael Griffin’s powerful statement on Saturday, Feb. 4, that NASA “…will continue to be committed to open scientific and technical inquiry and dialogue with the public” makes NASA’s commitment to the principles of openness and integrity clear. His subsequent actions have reinforced his words. We, the undersigned NASA civil servant/affiliated scientists, engineers and all NASA employees, endorse these principles as individuals.

Statement of Support for Dr. James Hansen:

Citizen decisions should be based on sound science. Civil servants, who work for the public, have an obligation to inform the public about serious threats in their areas of expertise supported by new and documented research. NASA superiors have supported NASA civil servant, university and contractor scientists in their duty to have full and open disclosure of research findings, and we need their continued support. With consequences of continued global warming such as sea level rise and worldwide melting of glaciers, society must grapple with this issue. Dr. James Hansen has informed the public on this important topic during a long, distinguished career, and is highly regarded in climate science, as seen by his election to the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Hansen’s counsel to mitigate climate change deserves serious attention. Dr. Hansen is not alone in speaking out on this issue, but is certainly one of the more respected voices in the science community. We, the undersigned, fully support Dr. Hansen in his professional capacity to continue alerting the public about global warming.

Statement of support for All NASA scientists and engineers:

We, the undersigned, encourage all NASA affiliated scientists and engineers to openly present their expertise for the public good such that NASAs implementation of openness may serve as a model for all US federal agencies.

Bravo to the signers, who are listed on the Web site for the statement.  We think this is a significant step in the right direction. 

This “grassroots” response to the problem of political interference by NASA headquarters executives and public affairs office staffers with public communication of climate science has been a while in coming.  We have been wondering about the apparent silence from Jim Hansen’s colleagues. 

In commenting on how endorsing open public dialogue seems a bit like endorsing motherhood and apple pie, one of our favorite program leaders at NASA said about the statement:  “Even motherhood needs its defenders these days, it seems.” So be it.  Motherhood is a good thing to defend, and perhaps with the experts at NASA serving as watchdogs the situation will get onto the right track. The statement rightfully concludes by emphasizing the need for scientists and engineers to actually communicate with the public in order to make good on the promise of openness.  There’s a lesson here, too, for other federal agencies and the scientists and engineers who work in them.

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