Some might have wondered why we would make a big deal over the amazing mismanagement and scientific intimidation recently revealed at NASA (for more, go to our search window at top left and type in ‘NASA’). It’s just one agency. Pardon the sarcasm, but must seem absolutely ridiculous to think that the pattern of mismanagement documented at NASA would extend to other government agencies. It’s not as if these people have established a pattern of misbehavior or anything.
Take, for example, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA monitors the Earth’s climate and oceans, which some would call a fairly important task. When rightwingers complain that we don’t have enough data and that we need more ‘sound science,’ the responsibility falls on NOAA to do it. It seems safe to expect, then, that an agency whose work lies at the center of such a politically-sensitive controversy is where you’d be most likely to find the administration’s thumb on the scales.
James E. Hansen, the NASA climate scientist who sparked an uproar last month by accusing the Bush administration of keeping scientific information from reaching the public, said Friday that officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are also muzzling researchers who study global warming.
Hansen, speaking in a panel discussion about science and the environment before a packed audience at the New School university, said that while he hopes his own agency will soon adopt a more open policy, NOAA insists on having “a minder” monitor its scientists when they discuss their findings with journalists.
For your own entertainment, draw two boxes on a white piece of paper. In the left-hand box write down all the countries from the last 100 years which insisted that academics and other citizens only speak to the press when attended by ‘minders.’ The US goes in that box. In the right-hand box write down all of the countries that let academics speak freely, including unrestricted access to international meetings. Use Google if you must.
Done? Now tell me whether you’re comfortable with the kind of company that we keep. Thus endeth the exercise.
The main instrument of suppression seems to be noaa’s policy on contact with the press. Since June 2004, noaa, which is part of the Department of Commerce, has had a policy that its employees have to notify a public affairs officer if a member of the press contacts them for an interview. But the policy was often ignored. Then, on September 29, in the midst of growing public debate over hurricanes and global warming, public affairs official Jim Teet issued a memo requiring that “any request for an interview with a national media outlet/reporter must now receive prior approval by DOC [Department of Commerce].