The damaging practices of the Bush administration documented in this report range across a wide front and will only be redressed by an effort of comparable proportions and persistence. If the nation is to fully benefit from its heavy investment in scientific research and education, and if the public is not to lose faith in the rationality of its government, immediate steps must be taken to restore the integrity of science in the federal policymaking process. To that end, the president, Congress, scientists, and the public at large must engage in these efforts.
The president should immediately request his science advisor to prepare a set of recommendations for executive orders and other actions to prohibit further censorship and distortion of scientific information from federal agencies, and put an end to practices that undermine the integrity of scientific advisory panels.
Congress must ensure that this administration and future administrations reverse this dangerous trend, and should:
- Hold oversight hearings to investigate and assess the allegations raised in this report.
- Ensure that the laws and rules governing scientific advisory appointments require that all appointees meet high professional standards, and protect against the domination of such panels by individuals tied to entities that have a vested interest at stake.
- Guarantee public access to government scientific studies and the findings of scientific advisory panels.
- Re-establish an organization able to independently assess and provide guidance to Congress on technical questions bearing on public policy, similar to the former Office of Technology Assessment.
Scientists must recognize their fundamental obligation to take a lead role in raising awareness on this issue. They should:
- Encourage their professional societies and colleagues to become engaged, voice their concerns directly to elected representatives, and communicate the importance of this issue to the public both directly and through the media. In doing so, they must make it clear that the misuse of science can exact heavy costs by causing preventable illness and loss of life, avoidable damage to the environment, delay in the development of cleaner and more energy-efficient technologies, and other negative impacts on our society and economy.
- Provide constructive guidance on how the American political system can begin restoring the integrity of science in the formation and implementation of public policy.
The public also has a crucial role to play because these issues have an enormous impact on our health and well-being and that of our children and grandchildren. The public must voice its concern about these issues to its elected representatives, letting them know that censorship and distortion of scientific knowledge by the federal government will not be tolerated, and reminding them that the public trust is difficult to regain once lost.
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