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 Litmus Tests for Scientific Appointees

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Charges concerning the use of political litmus tests for candidates for scientific advisory positions have been leveled at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. One well-publicized assertion involves Dr. William R. Miller of the University of New Mexico. Miller, a distinguished professor of psychology and psychiatry, the pioneer of a leading substance abuse treatment, and author of more than 100 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, says that his 2002 interview for a slot on a National Institute on Drug Abuse advisory panel included questions about whether his views were congruent with those held by President Bush and whether he had voted for Bush in 2000. Presumably based on his answers, Miller was denied the appointment.35

Army Science Board

In another incident, William E. Howard III, an engineer from McLean, VA, reported in a letter to Science that he was told by a member of the Army Science Science Board (ASB) staff that his nomination to the ASB, a Defense Department advisory panel, was rejected because he had contributed to the presidential campaign of Senator John McCain (R-AZ).36 Howard says he never made such a contribution; instead, as it turns out, someone with a similar name (William S. Howard) had contributed the money. The mix-up only compounds the administration’s ill-considered practice. As Howard puts it, “The country is not being well-served by any administration’s policy of seeking advice only from a group of scientists and engineers who have passed the administration’s political litmus test.”37

35 Rather than focusing on Miller’s scientifi c qualifi cations, a White House liaison to the Department of Health and Human Services grilled Miller about his views on abortion, capital punishment, and many other topics. See E. Benson, “Political science: allegations of politicization are threatening the credibility of the federal government’s scientifi c advisory committees,” Monitor on Psychology: Journal of the American Psychological Association, March 2003. See also K. Silverstein, “Bush’s new political science,” Mother Jones, November-December 2002.

36 W.E. Howard III, “Advice without dissent at the DOD” (letter), Science, November 15, 2002.

37 Ibid.

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