Hundreds of Scientists Speak Up to Support NOAA Climate Research

, former deputy director, Center for Science & Democracy | December 7, 2015, 10:16 am EDT
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Hundreds of experts have signed two letters thanking NOAA administrator Kathryn Sullivan for continuing to stand firm against House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith’s attempts to politicize climate science. Chairman Smith recently issued a subpoena for all NOAA records related to an important climate change study he doesn’t like. The subpoena includes demands for scientists’ emails, peer review comments, and other deliberative materials, the disclosure of which could intimidate scientists and chill scientific speech.

The chair of the House Science Committee is harassing NOAA climate scientists--and researchers are thanking NOAA for standing up to the bullying and protecting its scientific integrity and independence. Photo: NASA via Flickr.

The chair of the House Science Committee is harassing NOAA climate scientists–and researchers are thanking NOAA for standing up to the bullying and protecting its scientific integrity and independence. Photo: NASA via Flickr.

Both letters, which went to Dr. Sullivan early this morning, were first reported by NPR’s Morning Edition.

“As former NOAA scientists, we write to thank you for standing up for the scientific integrity and independence in research critical to meeting some of the most pressing challenges we face as a nation,” wrote a group of former high-ranking NOAA scientists and administrators. The 23 signatories have 470+ combined years of experience at the agency. They continued:

“We know firsthand that scientists need intellectual space to debate new ideas and give each other confidential feedback without worrying that an individual comment will be subject to public scrutiny at a later date. Turning over scientists’ correspondence and other information to the committee would significantly damage NOAA’s ability to conduct science by putting NOAA’s scientific independence at risk, and making it more difficult for NOAA scientists to collaborate with peers in academia and the private sector.”

More than 500 experts from many different fields of research echoed the NOAA veterans’ concerns in a separate letter. “We know Chairman Smith’s subpoena for the correspondence of NOAA scientists involved with a peer-reviewed paper in Science is not about data access or seeking to learn more about the study,” they wrote. “We are aware that NOAA scientists already met several times with committee staff to provide all data and methodology related to this work and answer numerous questions about the research. We urge you to continue to stand firm against these bullying tactics in order to protect NOAA scientists’ ability to pursue research and publish data and results regardless of how contentious the issue may be.”

Several scientific societies recently wrote to Chairman Smith expressing “grave concern” about the inquiry. Signatories included AAAS, which publishes Science, where the influential climate study appeared. “The scientific process is modern civilization’s best means for arriving at reliable truth,” AAAS Chief Executive Officer Rush Holt told NPR. “And that process should be allowed to work without political meddling.”

Incredibly, in response, Chairman Smith suggested that the journal Science might be biased, too.

Over the past several months, Chairman Smith has offered a number of shifting explanations for his investigation. He is currently waiting for a response from the Commerce Department, which oversees NOAA, to a letter demanding materials by December 15.

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  • Cushela Cleis Robson

    I am a New Zealande, 61 now, and have been around long enough to see the environmental degradation of N.Z become a government-business as usual policy.Lots of people are fighting to get the truth out about these encroachments and to force our government to stop prevaricating on Climate Change. Scientists are coming under attack and unseemly pressure here too.Dr Mike Joy an Ecologist and Prof st Massey University is fighting the good fight.Do look at his Facebook site.All thinkers must have the right not just to freedom of speech but freedom of thought.. These Scientists are living with integrity.I wish you well.I believe the earths people will step up and fight for their home.We must not just do our bit we are well past that. We must do everything we can to help the deniers understand that our lives need to change. Live with Integrity and hope and don’t forget to smile at your enemies.They have kids too!

  • Epicurus

    Lamar Smith is an embarrassment.

  • Ray Dziadzio

    The scientists who are not PC what do they belong too The Union of Unconcered Scientists. Scientist where just as
    positive about Acid Rain and the Hole in the Ozone Layer

    • Epicurus

      Sue your English teacher for malpractice.

    • ScootersforTeabaggers

      Yes, and they were right about both of those, too. Perhaps the only reason they were effectively dealt with is that the Republican Party at that time was ruled by moderates who believed in science. Had the Tea Party been in control of the Republican Party, like it is now, you can bet that unrestricted amounts of sulfur dioxide would still be getting pumped into the sky the way it was in the 70’s and CFC’s would still be getting directly released.

  • Ray Dziadzio

    There are hub=ndreds of scientists that have denounced the figures they are not PC so we aren’t allowed to hear

    • Epicurus

      No there aren’t.