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The Science Community Must Fight Attacks on Science-Based Regulations

It is easy in the day-to-day work of science to miss the struggle now being waged in Washington over the role science plays in crafting health and safety protections for America. But that struggle is heating up and the outcome matters not only for the science community but for the country. The Center for Science and Democracy at UCS, and our Steering Committee of eminent scientists and public servants, are asking you to join the fight in a Policy Forum article published in Science May 29th (login required).
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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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Access Denied? A Survey of Science Writers Sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists and the Union of Concerned Scientists

Earlier this year, the Center for Science and Democracy published a report on media policies at 17 federal agencies. More than four years after the Obama administration had issued a directive ordering reform of federal scientific integrity policies—including those governing media access—we found evidence that public communications are too often censored, constrained, or funneled through agency media offices. 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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Freedom to Tweet? Government Scientists and the Right to Engage on Social Media

Social media has done great things for science. We’ve seen it educate, advocate, and communicate on scientific issues around the world and at an unimaginable speed. Social media has allowed open science to thrive, scientists to connect, and movements to start. It allows us to organize, debate, and discuss breaking news on science-related topics. As my colleague Aaron has said, when Neil deGrasse Tyson has more Twitter followers than Seth Rogen, we know that social media has potential for communication of science. Read More

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Willie Soon, Academic Freedom, and How We Can Deal With Undisclosed Conflicts of Interest

In the last week, the Internet has blown up. There were llamas, dresses, and bird-riding weasels. But what also blew up was an important discussion about conflict of interest disclosure and what information academic scientists should be expected to make public. Above all else, the debate has made clear that conflict of interest disclosure rules are lacking and that we need clarity from Congress, scientific societies, and academic institutions on how these issues should be addressed. 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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Willie Soon’s Failure to Disclose Industry Funding for Contrarian Climate Research is Another Reason to Support Transparency

My first job in science communication was as an “Explainer” in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The program helps visitors – particularly students – understand the forces of flight. Our uniforms included red polo shirts that said “The Explainer Program” on the front and had the name of the company that sponsored the program – Cessna Aircraft – on the sleeve.

I recall this old uniform because the Smithsonian is under scrutiny for an entirely different type of sponsorship that was hidden from public view. Read More

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