October 28, 2004

Scientists say Bush is hurting research

The Columbus Dispatch

Thursday, October 28, 2004

by Mike Lafferty

Taking a different tack on national security, two prominent researchers ripped the Bush administration yesterday for what they called scientific lapses that threaten the nation.

The scientists, speaking to about 40 people in Ohio State University’s Cockins Hall, said their worries extend far beyond concerns for stem-cell and climate-change research.

"We value things like peer review, data, evidence, argument. That’s not the kind of atmosphere and kind of procedures that have been noticeable with the (Bush) administration," Daniel Goroff, a Harvard mathematician and member of Scientists and Engineers for Change, said in an interview.

The group, which backs Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, was formed about a month ago by scientists, including 10 American Nobel laureates, concerned by what they call the politicization and manipulation of science. It now includes about 5,000 scientists and engineers, including 48 Nobel winners.

"Concern has risen in a crescendo," said former presidential science adviser John Gibbons, a member of the group who also visited OSU yesterday.

A spokesman for the White House science adviser dismissed their statements.

"This is a political organization with a partisan political agenda," Robert Hopkins said. "They’re entitled to their opinion. It’s a shame they’ve decided to inject science into the campaign."

Gibbons criticized administration decisions to limit stemcell research to existing lines and what he called an inadequate response to studies about global warming.

"We’ve kind of gone off track and we’ve been driven off track for political reasons," he said.

But Hopkins said the administration considers globalwarming research important and is making it a priority.

He added: "This president is committed to stem-cell research without crossing a fundamental moral line."

Goroff and Gibbons also attacked what they called the political vetting of scientists before they are appointed to federal commissions. They also said industry officials have been selected over scientists for advisory panels on issues such as lead and mercury regulation.

Gibbons also expressed concern that President Bush has downgraded the office of the White House science adviser, John H. Marburger, and moved it out of the White House complex. Losing the emphasis makes a huge difference, Gibbons said.

Hopkins responded that Marburger, a Democrat, is part of Oval Office decision-making.

Hopkins said Bush is dedicated to science. Nondefense research has grown 26.5 percent. Defense research has increased 62.5 percent.

Last week, Ray Orbach, head of the Department of Energy’s science activities, said funding under Bush has increased dramatically for big projects such as fusion power and hydrogen fuel after relatively flat funding under President Clinton.

But critics say science spending, especially for nondefense research, is likely to fall as budget deficits grow above $500 billion in the current fiscal year.

"Have you heard the president talk about the deficit?" Gibbons asked during his talk.

Posted by jmellicant at October 28, 2004 12:40 PM