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Michael Halpern

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About the author: Michael Halpern is an expert on political interference in science and solutions to reduce suppression, manipulation, and distortion of government science. See Michael's full bio.

Your Handy Guide to Attacks on How the Endangered Species Act Uses Science

Gut the science. That’s how this Congress intends to undermine our nation’s environmental and public health laws. Most of the action over the past few years has been in the House, but tomorrow, a Senate committee will consider eight bills that would hack away at the Endangered Species Act. This is the first Senate hearing on endangered species in years, so it’s worth taking a look at all of the ways that Congress is trying to make this insanely popular law ineffective without having the courage to scrap it.  Read More

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Scientific Societies Fight Legislation Designed to “Advance Scientific Leadership” — the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act

Yep, that’s right. Several prominent scientific and academic societies have come out swinging against the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, legislation that supporters say will promote cutting-edge research and advance scientific leadership. Why such strong opposition? Read More

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Condemning Conversion Therapy is Supporting Science

Last night, the White House called for a ban on so-called “conversion therapy,” or attempts to change sexual orientation. This dangerous and sometimes life-destroying form of quackery has continued for too long. Bravo to the president for throwing his administration’s weight behind the evidence. The abhorrent practice needs to stop. Read More

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How Do We Make Scientists Human?

There are hundreds of thousands of scientists in the United States. Add the engineers, medical doctors, economists, public health professionals, and others and we’re talking millions. Millions of experts who could use their knowledge and training to help make sure that public policies are informed by science. And yet, many people think they don’t know a single scientist. So how do we bridge that gap? Read More

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Censorship of Government Scientists Spreads to the United Kingdom

British scientists are pushing back strongly against a move by the UK government to control how government scientists communicate their research with the public. This is a very troubling development that is bad for science and bad for the public interest. The news was reported on Friday in the Guardian and Science. Read More

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Arizona Superior Court Protects Academic Freedom in Climate Email Disclosure Case

Arizona basketball fans may be glum after this weekend’s loss to Wisconsin, but there’s some very good news today out of Arizona: a superior court has found that the University of Arizona was right to protect more than 1700 emails to and from university climate scientists from disclosure under the state’s open records act. Read More

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Rep. Grijalva’s Requests and the Real Problem with Conflict of Interest Disclosure

On Tuesday, Arizona’s U.S. representative Raul Grijalva asked seven academics for their sources of funding and earlier drafts of testimony they have delivered before congressional committees. Since then, many have debated whether the requests cross the line into harassment or witch hunts or McCarthyism. Lost in the discussion around whether the requests are too broad is a bigger question to address: Why don’t we already know who funds the work of those who testify before Congress? Read More

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What Kinds of Scrutiny of Scientists are Legitimate?

This morning, Rep. Raul Grijalva sent letters to seven universities seeking documents related to academics who have testified before Congress on climate change. The requests come in the wake of revelations over the weekend that the Smithsonian Institution agreed not to disclose payments from the Southern Company, a major utility, to fund and review the work of Smithsonian aerospace engineer Willie Soon. As all of the researchers in question have been critical of mainstream climate science, some are wondering if Rep. Grijalva’s requests can be considered a witch hunt. So is it? Read More

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Twenty Years of Open Records Attacks

University of Minnesota environmental scientist Deborah Swackhamer studied toxaphene, a chemical once considered a promising replacement for DDT but eventually found to be quite toxic. But when Swackhamer joined a group of researchers exploring why there might be unusual concentrations of the chemical in the Great Lakes, the university received the largest open records request ever made in Minnesota. Read More

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Who Should Decide What Happens When Scientists Violate Conflict of Interest Rules?

Scientists and institutions are under increasing scrutiny to be more transparent, especially when they publish research that has bearing on major public policy debates, and with good reason: funding can influence how studies are conducted and results are presented. It’s not easy though; when it comes to disclosure of conflicts of interest, practices vary across scientific disciplines, journals and institutions, and the lines regarding what should be disclosed are sometimes blurry. Read More

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