Rep. David Wu requests GAO investigation of science manipulation and censorship


The Climate Science Watch blog returns to action:

On May 2, Congressman David Wu (D-OR), ranking member of the Science Subcommittee on
Environment, Technology and Standards, requested a congressional Government Accountability Office investigation into allegations of scientific manipulation and censorship by the administration. The request raises questions about NASA, the Bureau of Land Management, EPA, NOAA, and the U.S. Geological Survey. 


Below is the text of Congressman Wu’s official request:
David M. Walker
Comptroller General
Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20548
Dear Comptroller General Walker:
As ranking member of the Subcommittee on Environment, Technology and Standards of the Committee on Science in the United States House of Representatives, I hereby request that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigate allegations of political litmus tests for science appointees, manipulation of scientific findings and reports by political appointees, and politically driven censorship of scientists. These allegations are not confined to a single office or agency. Despite administration assurances that these assertions have no merit and that the appropriate authorities were looking into these matters, the allegations have continued. 
The recent incidents involving Dr. James E. Hansen at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the mysterious transformation of the Technology Administration’s report on offshoring from a 200 page document into a 12 page summary, and the suspension of a forest research grant at Oregon State University because it reflected adversely on commercial forestry interests suggest this problem has not been resolved. Despite assurances to the contrary, it appears that the roles of science and political policy continue to be confused. Information inconsistent with favored political outcomes seems to be suppressed.
I would like the GAO specifically to investigate the incident involving the publication in “Science” of a forest regeneration study by Daniel Donato, a graduate student at Oregon State University.  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) suspended the federal research grant that funded this work on unsubstantiated charges that the authors had violated the grant agreement. BLM has since reversed itself, and the grant suspension has been lifted, but the fact that BLM would suspend the grant first and ask questions later sends a chilling message to the scientific community.
Mr. Jeff Ruch from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility spoke of parallel incidents at a hearing held by the House Committee on Science on March 16, 2006. He spoke of reports languishing for many years at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies. The administration witnesses argue that the long times that reports have been held in “draft” status is due to vetting and verifying research. This argument is ludicrous when some reports have been “vetted” for up to 10 years, an excessive time period for any report to remain relevant and up to date.
Employees and contractors working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a U.S. Geological Survey scientist working at a NOAA laboratory have said that administration officials have chastised them for speaking out about their work; removed references to global warming from their reports, news releases and conference Web sites; investigated news leaks; and sometimes ordered them to stop speaking with the media altogether. Their accounts indicate that the ideological battle over climate-change research, which first came to light at NASA, is being fought in other federal science agencies.
I hereby request that the GAO investigate reports of incidences and likely effects of imposing political litmus tests (unrelated to their work) for science appointees, the withholding, delay, or politically motivated editing of scientific reports, and the effects on freedom of inquiry for both federal and non-federal scientists. In particular, I ask that you investigate and identify:
1. the specific number of scientific study reports currently left in draft form across all Federal agencies with scientific research components;

2. the maximum, minimum, average, mean and median amount of time the scientific study reports mentioned in item number 1 above have been left in draft form;

3. the number of complaints of suppression, tampering, delaying, changing without express consent of the author, political pressuring, or unfair treatment due to the nature of their research submitted by researchers and scientists working with or under Federal agencies from January 1, 1996 until the present time, broken down by calendar month and year;

4. the specific instances where Federal grant money has been withheld or suspended, with the stated official reason, with your considered opinion as to whether such official reason was politically motivated;

5. the specific instances mentioned in item number 4 above where Federal grant money has been withheld or suspended, and of or when the funding was then reinstated;

6. the specific inquiries or investigations by government agencies made into the allegations made by scientists and researchers in item number 3 above, and the instances of failures to inquire or investigate.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. I request that a final report, not draft, be issued on or before the first business day after February 14, 2008. If you have any questions, please contact Jean Fruci at 202-225-6375 or Stella Ma at 202-225-0855.
Very truly yours,
David Wu
Member of Congress

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