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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.

Margaret Atwood on the Muzzling of Canadian Government Scientists

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday aired a short talk from author and critic Margaret Atwood on two critical issues: the muzzling of Canadian government scientists and the importance of collecting adequate scientific information about threats to public health and safety. It is well worth four minutes of your day to listen in, and I’ve transcribed her remarks below.  Read More

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A Roundup of Editorials Criticizing President Obama’s Plan B Emergency Contraception Decision

On Tuesday, District Court Judge Edward Korman spoke incredibly strongly against the Obama administration’s decision to appeal his order that would require the Food and Drug Administration to use science to determine whether over the counter access to emergency contraception is safe for women of all ages. Read More

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Duped Again on Emergency Contraception

I feel like Charlie Brown.

A few weeks ago, I celebrated as a federal judge ordered the FDA to follow the medical evidence and make the emergency contraception known as “Plan B” available over the counter without restrictions. Under both President Obama and his predecessor, the decision had been thoroughly politicized. I thought that the judge’s ruling would provide the Obama administration with political cover. Surely they would respect the decision. Read More

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President Obama Expected to Speak at NAS on Monday

President Obama is expected to address the National Academy of Sciences on Monday to mark its 150th anniversary, according to an all-staff email that went to NAS employees yesterday.  The speech will stream live at 11:15 a.m. Eastern Time at  www.national-academies.org. Read More

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The EPA and Science Advice: A Story of a Time When Congress Listened

The UCS Science Network brings thousands of scientists and experts together to leverage their unique knowledge and skills to promote science-based, practical solutions to the challenges we face. Our staff in Washington, such as my colleague Celia Wexler, keep an eye on Congress, and we alert members of the Science Network when legislation is being considered that would strengthen or weaken the role of science in policy making. And while with each passing week (and last week, for me, in particular) it is becoming harder and harder to believe, sometimes members of Congress do pay attention to informed constituents. Read More

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Following Science, Judge Orders Over-the-Counter Access to Emergency Contraception drug Plan B

Chalk up a win for science. Federal Judge Edward Korman today ordered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make “Plan B” emergency contraception available to women of all ages without a prescription, calling efforts to stop the FDA from doing so “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.”

A federal judge has accomplished what two administrations failed to do: make a decision about access to a drug based on medical evidence. It’s just common sense for the government to make drug approval and access decisions solely based on the best available science, not on hunches or political calculations. The decision brings a decade of politics trumping science to an end.  Read More

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Pennsylvania High School to Host Bizarre Swim Meet – in Fracking Fluid

In what one concerned parent is calling “outrageous,” the Pennsylvania Department of Environment is allowing two eastern Pennsylvania high schools to stage a bizarre boys swim meet this coming Friday—in a swimming pool filled with fracking fluid.

The event is being held to demonstrate the safety of the fluid, a byproduct of the oil and gas extraction method of hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking. Some politicians have pulled similar scientifically questionable stunts to reassure the public that fracking fluid is benign. Governor John Hickenlooper (D-CO), for example, went so far as to drink a glass of the fluid in 2012. Read More

Categories: Science and Democracy  

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Four Hours after UCS Report Release, United States Geological Survey Takes a Step Forward

UPDATE Monday March 18 3:00PM (see below):

Who ever said the federal government can’t work fast?

This morning, UCS released a report analyzing how federal government agencies and departments allow their scientists to communicate with the public. We found that while many agencies have better policies since 2008, there are still improvements to be made. Read More

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Freedom to Tweet: Grading Social Media Policies in the Federal Government

Social media can transform debates, inform discussions and, as we saw with the Arab spring, help spread democracy. And information and science have a key role to play in democracy (hence the new Center for Science and Democracy here at UCS). Scientists working for government agencies such as NASA, NOAA, the EPA, and the FDA have a lot to contribute to discussions about the science-based challenges we face. Unfortunately, agency policies combined with a culture of timidity are often constraining individual government scientists from jumping into social media. Read More

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Surprising Research on Bicycle Helmet Laws — and Why It Matters for Gun Research

An article in The Atlantic on Friday discussed the importance of bicycle helmets. It also discussed recent research around the effectiveness of helmet laws, and different ideas that people have around mandatory helmet use based on that research. That makes me think about research around guns. Say what? Let me explain. Read More

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