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Censorship Science

White House Clamps Down On USGS Publishing 417

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the need-to-know-basis dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The White House has begun implementing a new policy toward the U.S. Geological Survey, in which all scientific papers and other public documents by USGS scientists must be screened for content. The USGS communications office must now be 'alerted about information products containing high-visibility topics or topics of a policy-sensitive nature.' Subjects fitting this description might include global warming, or research on the effects of oil drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve."
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White House Clamps Down On USGS Publishing

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  • I can't wait, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rednip (186217) * <(rednip) (at) (gmail.com)> on Saturday December 16, 2006 @01:42PM (#17269612) Journal
    I can't wait, for the congressional hearings to start. Actions like this scream for the congressional oversight which has been sorely lacking over the last 6 years. Polowski has insisted that she won't press for impeachment, but I'm guessing that she is waiting for the evidence to come to light. The real question is where to start, the Energy policy dictated by energy companies, Halliburton corruption and it's 'loyalty tests' to get government work, or torpedoing the careers of military men who are unwilling to tow the party line. However, the squashing of 'liberal' scientific opinion is as good as any place to start, I suspect that hundreds of them would be willing to come forth.
    • Polowski?
      • Yeah, you know... the Doctor who served on the Enterprise while Beverly Crusher was off having kids... er... I mean teaching at Starfleet Academy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lawpoop (604919)
      Pelosi was politically cunning when she said that impeachment was off the table. If she had been calling for impeachment, it would have looked very bad for her, since she was in line for the presidency, if the president and vice-president were convicted. The right-wing smear machine would have gone into overdrive. Instead, she chose to say that impeachment was "off the table", which has no meaning or binding power. Congress can move to impeach the president at any time they want. They are not bound by somet
      • Re:I can't wait, (Score:4, Interesting)

        by plopez (54068) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @02:48PM (#17270316) Journal
        Come to think of it threat of impeachment may be a more useful tool than actual impeachment. Besides, if Bush were booted out who would take over? Cheney, and no one wants that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by honkycat (249849)
      If she (Pelosi) is waiting for evidence to justify impeachment, this isn't going to be it. The public outrage over this move will be muted at best -- it's too easy to explain it away (as they do) as simply giving the PR department a chance to prepare for the news release before it gets out. That may even be the truth. Still, as a scientist, a policy like this gives me chills if only for the appearance of bias.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by advocate_one (662832)
      "Toe the party line" not "Tow the party line"...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by khallow (566160)

      One of the conditions of impeachment [wikipedia.org] is that the President (or Vice President) has to commit "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors". Clinton commited perjury in a federal court, which is a federal felony. Bush has not commited a similar level crime. Prewar lying about US intelligence on Iraqi WMD, even if it can be proven to have occured, might not be illegal. Especially since Bush didn't claim much himself. And since many of the US allies and independent countries like Russia and China n

      • Re:I can't wait, (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tc (93768) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @04:08PM (#17270954)
        Bush admitted ordered illegal wiretapping of US Citizens. Clinton lied about getting a blowjob from his intern.

        Are you really arguing that the latter is impeachable but not the former?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by macdaddy (38372)
          Might I remind you of something of critical importance? Conjure up in your mind a quick mental image of Ms. Lewinski. Let me help [priceofliberty.net] you [sjove-billeder.dk]. That is why, my dear tc, President Clinton was impeached. After that unconscionable lack of judgement and/or eyesight we had to revoke his man card. He was already on probation for marrying Hillary. Lewinski was just too much. For shame Billy Boy. You could have at least tapped a nice ass.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by rednip (186217) *

        Clinton commited perjury in a federal court, which is a federal felony.

        No, Clinton did not lie to a federal grand jury. In pre-testimony documents, he was given a definition for 'sex' which did not include 'blow job', and correctly stated on the stand that he did not have sex. However most people include a 'blow job' as sex, so when he repeated his assertion on TV, he was wrong to do so, but certainly not under oath. It is true that they not yet caught Bush or any of his Administration lying under oath, as they have never testified under oath, the Republican congress has n

  • ... your unfriendly neighbourhood big brother.

    In all seriousness, does this actually surprise anyone?
  • by RobertM1968 (951074) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @01:45PM (#17269638) Homepage Journal
    "The White House has begun implementing a new policy toward the U.S. Geological Survey, in which all scientific papers and other public documents by USGS scientists must be screened for content. The USGS communications office must now be 'alerted about information products containing high-visibility topics or topics of a policy-sensitive nature.' Subjects fitting this description might include global warming, or research on the effects of oil drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve. Anything that might have a negative impact on the economy or the current Administration's plans for despoiling our environment must be inaccessible to those of us who live on this planet and will be adversely affected by changes allowed through keeping our population uneducated about the environmental impacts. Any scientific/geological information that will allow anyone to question current Administration's energy or (lack of) environmentally friendly plans must remain inaccessible to the general public."
    • by CaymanIslandCarpedie (868408) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @02:23PM (#17270048) Journal
      Also interesting about Mark Myers the new head of the USGS (from Nature 441, 266 (18 May 2006))

      "Who is Mark Myers? That's what many US geologists are asking in the wake of an announcement that President George W. Bush will nominate Myers to head the US Geological Survey (USGS). ...Myers has a PhD in geology and has spent much of his career in Alaska, working for oil companies and for the state -- sometimes alone in remote locations, armed with a shotgun in case of grizzly bears...If confirmed by the Senate, Myers would be the first USGS director in decades to come neither from academia nor from within the agency....Myers worked most recently as head of Alaska's Division of Oil and Gas. In the past he has supported drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- a protected region of Alaska. And this has spooked some environmentalists. But if he gets the USGS job, Myers says, he would stay out of any decision making: "My job is strictly to provide the data, to help people understand the data and its limitations."
      • by Dunbal (464142)
        Myers the new head of the USGS

              Mike Myers is the head of the USGS? Smashing, baby! That's so unbelievably shagadelic...uhh, ohhh MARK Myers...oops.
  • What is this!? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by timeOday (582209) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @01:45PM (#17269652)
    The Executive branch has forgotten it can't make laws.
    • by pla (258480)
      The Executive branch has forgotten it can't make laws.

      The USGS, the FCC, the DOE, and countless other government "agencies" derive their power directly from the president. If he tells them they need to wear only bright purple clothing every Thursday, they'd damned well better do so.


      Now, I will agree 100% with those suggesting the purely political motives behind this decree. But at least on this one, the asshat-in-chief does have the authority (if not the intellect or scientific understanding) to si
    • by Cheapy (809643)
      Hasn't seemed to stop them for the past 6 years.
  • by wschalle (790478) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @01:46PM (#17269660)
    Who knows what could happen if enough truth got out. Gives me nightmares just thinkin about it.
  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @01:46PM (#17269664)
    Republican War on Science [amazon.com] by Chris Mooney

    From the article: "This is not about stifling or suppressing our science, or politicizing our science in any way,'' Barbara Wainman, the agency's director of communications, said Wednesday. "I don't have approval authority. What it was designed to do is to improve our product flow.''

    They aren't even trying to justify their actions anymore. They're just filtering science from public view, and insisting that it is improvement.

    Ryan Fenton
    • by Jabrwock (985861) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @01:50PM (#17269718) Homepage
      Classic 1984'ish stuff. You take away, then proclaim the reduction as an "improvement". I believe in the book they were using chocolate rations, but hey, information can be rationed too...
      • Classic 1984'ish stuff. You take away, then proclaim the reduction as an "improvement". I believe in the book they were using chocolate rations, but hey, information can be rationed too...

        I wish they would start with the chocolate. Considering the size of the average american waist, rationing chocolate would be an improvement, probably save billions in health-care costs.
        • chocolate (Score:3, Interesting)

          by falconwolf (725481)

          I wish they would start with the chocolate. Considering the size of the average american waist, rationing chocolate would be an improvement, probably save billions in health-care costs.

          Ah but dark chocolate is good for the heart [forbes.com]. It also contains antioxidants which may help fight cancer. you've gotta love chocolate.

          Falcon
        • by hazem (472289)
          I really doubt that chocolate* is the problem behind the waiste-size of Americans. Even if you love chocolate, you can only eat so much of it.

          I think, rather, that it's the infusion of the incredible amount of high fructose corn syrup and MSG in the food system of Americans. MSG makes things taste good that probably otherwise wouldn't - and is believed to suppress apetite signals. HFCS as a sweetener delivers tons of calories but doesn't interact with the apetite signalling systems the same way that gluc
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      This is truely a big deal - censorship of public information about our environment, paid for by tax dollars.

      I hereby pledge never to vote Republican again.
      Thomas
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 16, 2006 @01:47PM (#17269678)
    ... when you have god on your side?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ScrewMaster (602015)
      That would be funny, but too many demagogues throughout history have felt the same way, and believed in the absolute rightness of what they were doing for just that reason. And it's the scariest reason of all, for it leaves no room for doubt or self-evaluation.
  • Da, tovarisch! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Saturday December 16, 2006 @01:48PM (#17269684) Homepage Journal
    We must ensure that our scientists are entirely in accord with the Marxist-Leninist principles of eternal socialist brotherhood underlying the glorious people's revolution!

    Same shit, different century. And it worked out sooo well the last time.
  • by pbailey (225135) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @01:49PM (#17269696)
    I don't understand why you Americans are so agreeable when it comes to having your civil liberties squashed. Why don't you all speak up and remind your representative that you used to live in a free country and would like to once again. Enough of the government spin masters controlling everything.

     
    • by dattaway (3088)
      I don't understand why you Americans are so agreeable when it comes to having your civil liberties squashed. Why don't you all speak up and remind your representative that you used to live in a free country and would like to once again. Enough of the government spin masters controlling everything.

      Why don't you come over here and scream with us? You no longer have to worry about being invaded and you sure don't have to worry about being deported.
    • by erroneus (253617)
      Oh I'll take that one.

      We watch TV. We pay our bills. We often work more than one job. We vote on American Idol and watch "reality TV." We have been conditioned to think in terms of 30-minute episodes (including entertaining commercial messages).

      WE ARE BRAIN-DEAD. That's just one step beyond brain-washed and not nearly as reversible.
    • by ClassMyAss (976281) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @02:19PM (#17270020) Homepage
      The problem in America right now is that just as in any democracy, a bit more than half of the country agrees with the current government (at least regarding personal freedom - no question about it, the Dems only won because of Iraq) and subscribes to the notion that if you aren't doing anything wrong, you don't have anything to hide. And hey, we're a democracy, so if 51% of the people agree, that means the rest of us should all just bend over, right? That's what it means to be free! Combine that sentiment with the hideous educational system and attitude in this country, and it becomes a very hostile place to free scientific inquiry - people don't care whether things are true, because belief is much easier than research (especially when you're too stupid to understand the research even if you did look into it, and trust me, I've taught way too many American high school students to believe that more than a fraction are even minimally educated, let alone intelligent).

      I finally realized how bad things were going to get when I first started hearing people advance the argument that it was unconstitutional and - worse! - unpatriotic to limit their democratic "right" to vote away my freedoms. Here's a hint, America: if someone is pissed about "judicial activism" it usually means they are trying to take away a minority's right to not be punished for being a minority (and I don't mean this in the strictly racial sense). Cover your ass or you know what you get...
      • by erroneus (253617) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @02:26PM (#17270080) Homepage
        No. The problem is that we don't know how to take action any longer.

        Have you noticed that there are no longer any classes in things like "citizenship" or "social studies" or anything to do with participating in government? We aren't told the basic truths such as the REAL power of the jury which is to determine if a law itself is bad and get rid of it.

        For example, if someone were to be prosecuted under the DMCA and the defendant wanted a trial by jury and the jury decided the DMCA wasn't good law, something could actually be done!
        • by ClassMyAss (976281) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @02:42PM (#17270244) Homepage
          For example, if someone were to be prosecuted under the DMCA and the defendant wanted a trial by jury and the jury decided the DMCA wasn't good law, something could actually be done!
          Very true - alas, most people have never even heard of jury nullification [wikipedia.org], although I suspect if they did, many would feel they had no right to apply it in most cases. Wikipedia claims that "Jurors are likely to be struck from the panel during voir dire if they reveal awareness of the concept of jury nullification.", although this is without a citation.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by saihung (19097)
            Let me introduce you to NOV - a Latin acronym that translates to "judgement notwithstanding the verdit." If the judge feels that the jury verdict differs widely from the plain facts of the case, or that the jury failed to follow his directions, he has the discretion to overrule them and make his own determination. Kind of makes the power of the jury worthless, but it's true.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by ScrewMaster (602015)
            Jurors are struck just for being educated, or at least for having the appearance of it. I spent a couple of days about ten years ago serving (or trying to serve, at any rate) on a jury. Several different juries, in fact. I faced a peremptory challenge every damn time, once it came out during initial questioning that I was an engineer. That's all it took, and all the other technical/scientific/degreed individuals suffered the same fate. I also noticed that the people actually selected tended to be of the wel
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by falconwolf (725481)

          We aren't told the basic truths such as the REAL power of the jury which is to determine if a law itself is bad and get rid of it.

          All too true. And the thing is is judges and prosecutors screen juries to get rid of those who believe in Jury Nullification [greenmac.com].

          Falcon
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        The problem in America right now is that just as in any democracy, a bit more than half of the country agrees with the current government

        I don't know if I'd go that far. Yes, many are taken in by the Machiavelli/Goebbel PR spin machine. But, I fear, many more just aren't bothered to give a shit. You see, our "leaders" have learned that when the people are starving don't say "Let them eat cake". Instead, join forces with corporations and placate them with McDonalds hamburgers and DVD's to take their minds
    • by Amouth (879122) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @02:25PM (#17270070)
      do you memeber video of bush's second election night? the streets where filled with protesters.. in fact it was the first time in history that the pres couldn't walk in because they where afraid he would be shot - no one saw this in the us.. except for the people there. the news didn't cover it - sure they had people covering it but it never ever got to the air. 90% or more of the US doesn't know and doesn't give a shit what happens.. and that is how they want it.. it saddens me..
    • And what country are you from that is so free and enlightened? I just love how foreigners feel free to take cheap shots at the US but never talk about where they're from.

      As for civil liberties? Both sides of popular American politics are a threat to my civil rights.
    • by plopez (54068) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @03:06PM (#17270506) Journal
      1) Most Americans don't vote.
      2) When they do vote it is often meaningless due to gerrymandered districts. If you're a Brit the analogy would be the 'rotten burroughs' of the 18th and 19th century in Britian.
      3) When congress does pass laws against a president's wishes he simply issues a signing statement saying he will not enforce them. This is blatent nonfeasence, something that should get the pres. removed from office. But niether the courts or the congress have the backbone to challenge him on it.
      4) The courts are being packed with activist judges who toe the right wing agenda. Judge Alito on the Supreme Court for example is a huge suppporter of the concept of the 'unitary executive'. Meaning the president gets to do whatever the president pleases.

      All this points to a drift toward right wing authoritarian rule. The president as emporer or god-king. Lately I read some posts on the net about the only solution to this being to amend the constitution to dissolve the executive branch, go toward a bi-cameral parlimentary system. I am starting to agree with that POV.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by w3woody (44457)
      A few points.

      First, as the head of the Executive Branch of the government, the President has the power and the right to oversee the functioning of all departments of government. In a sense the President is the Chief Executive Officer of the United States Government. So there are no rights being trampled on here--no free speech implications--any more than if the CEO of your company asked for review of all published papers. Nothing is preventing the researchers at the USGS from taking jobs at a variety of oth
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by belmolis (702863)

        The President is the CEO, not the Emperor. If the CEO tells the accountants to lie about the financial status of the company, he is not only going to be in trouble with the Board, he is probably going to go to jail. Similarly, if the CEO tells the company scientists to lie about the efficacy of a drug or the safety of an automobile, he is going to be in similar trouble. The President does ultimately ADMINISTER the executive branch, but that doesn't make its members his personal servants. They do not work f

  • I guess that puts the USGS between a rock and a hard place.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @01:50PM (#17269712) Homepage Journal
    The only way to stop Bush from using "politics" to subvert our government to his destructive corporate agenda is to impeach him. He doesn't care about "accountability moments" [google.com] anymore, because he's a "lame duck" [wikipedia.org], no reelection carrot to discipline his manners. And losing his Republican Congress means he's extremely dangerous, because he has nothing left to lose except his Executive privileges. Which are huge, especially since Bush has spent his 6 years remaking the government according to the Unitary Executive [wikipedia.org] "theory" that is his only real ideology other than unlimited money and power. He's spending OVER $3 TRILLION of your money [gao.gov] (paid over the rest of your life) every year, on his priorities, not yours.

    Stop him now. Impeach him now. [wikipedia.org] It's the only way to stop the damage before he starts "upgrading" the impeachment process itself.
    • by tb3 (313150)
      Sorry, but what would that achieve?

      I mean, didn't Clinton get impeached? It didn't seem to have any effect on him, did it?

      (BTW, I'm a Canadian, and I don't have an in-depth understanding of the U.S. political system.)
  • by NetSettler (460623) * <kent-slashdot@nhplace.com> on Saturday December 16, 2006 @01:56PM (#17269784) Homepage Journal

    What part of Democracy does this administration not understand?

    It's not that this administration doesn't have a coherent position, it's that that position is nearly impossible to audit because most individuals who might wish to don't command the resources that the government has, and it becomes a war of wills with the money (and hence the odds) stacked against the common citizen.

    There are things in the world that require actual secrecy. It's useful to have the codes to launch the missiles be secret. But that doesn't mean it has to be secret that you have nuclear missiles. In fact, it's the kind of thing one might want to know in order to decide if one likes the government that they elect in a supposedly informed way. How can one be informed on a matter without information?

    Democracy is a grand experiment. It seems an open question as to whether it works. But weirdly, though Bush and his cohorts speak about bringing Democracy to the world, they don't seem to believe in it. I'd think their position a lot more coherent and believable if they said "We're the party of 'Democracy has failed.'" They could be about political self-determination rather than democracy and they wouldn't sound like hypocrites. They could then say "You, the American people, decided democratically that "you can't handle the truth." [imdb.com]". But I think they worry people might not be able to handle that truth.

    And hiding one truth soon begets hiding another, until soon it seems like it should be S.O.P. [wikipedia.org], where we just don't let the people have access to any facts, not even political facts, because they might misinterpret them.

    And that's like a cancer. Because every fact you withhold becomes political by virtue of withholding it. So it feeds itself.

    The whole reason science uses something called "peer review" and not just "review" is to distinguish it from other kind of "review". Like, say, "government review". Blurring the two is to give take meaning from the word "peer". Which sounds quite a peery-loss endeavor to me.

  • by Pinkfud (781828) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @02:01PM (#17269822) Homepage
    The USGS is one of very few federal agencies that is actually useful to the people. Their research is valuable to all of us, and it should not be tampered with. I regularly check their seismic network web pages and read the Oat Mountain drum recorder [usgs.gov]. Why does the administration think it's bad for people to see this stuff?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Hits_B (711969)
      I just finished a project with the U.S.G.S. It was on a potentially environmentally sensitive topic relating to mineral resources in areas with threatened and endangered species. At no time during the internal review process were we encouraged to change anything or alter our findings. Thankfully this report came out before this "directive" was handed down. I wish the U.S.G.S. the best of luck trying to implement this. I'm sure the guys at Menlo Park aren't very happy with this.
  • I am outraged! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by /dev/trash (182850) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @02:02PM (#17269836) Homepage Journal
    The people VOTED for CHANGE. And dammit they deserve a change for course.
  • and good luck with that.

    I used to love going to the official MS terraserver site and seeing a big black blob over the PAVE PAWS defense radar installation on Cape Cod.

    I guess MS thought they needed to do the gummint's bidding and protect us from seeing a classified thing.

    Then you moused over to jef poskanzer's acme mapper and get everything in it's full glory anyway.

  • by NineNine (235196) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @02:05PM (#17269882)
    The agency's director, Mark Myers, and its communications office also must be told -- prior to any submission for publication -- "of findings or data that may be especially newsworthy, have an impact on government policy, or contradict previous public understanding to ensure that proper officials are notified and that communication strategies are developed.''

    Yeah. They have to be sure that the public isn't unneccessarily exposed to things like "facts". What kind of "communication strategies" need to be developed to communicate a new finding? What's wrong with just reporting the science? I guess that some facts have too much "truthiness" behind them:

    In 2002, the USGS was forced to reverse course after warning that oil and gas drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would harm the Porcupine caribou herd. One week later a new report followed, this time saying the caribou would not be affected.

    Damn facts... always getting in the way of MONEY.
  • by Marcos Eliziario (969923) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @02:07PM (#17269904) Homepage Journal
    Some years ago, President Lula, from Brasil, got a little upset with some data published by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Statistics and Geographics). The published data was relative to poverty reduction and kind of contradicted what government was saying. After that, it was officially ordered that the IBGE should submit every publication to the presidency, 48 hours before public delivery.
    Here in Brasil we have a joke about Bush and Lula that goes along the line that both of them don't know English (well, Lula also is not very good with portuguese, our official language). It seems to me, that being authoritarian is another common trace between the presidents of the US and Brasil.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by budgenator (254554)
      Dad Gumit, If I was president I'd want to see the things I wouldn't understand before the public who wouldn't understand sees it too! Shouldn't the boss have the right of first confusion?
  • Fascism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by A beautiful mind (821714) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @02:10PM (#17269930)
    The rule of the state, in importance ranked above the people that make up society.

    Scientific facts don't stop being scientific facts, just because the administration demonstrates the political need to ignore/bend/distort and supress such facts. Thus, the scientific governmental organization founded for the good of society is overruled by the good of the current administration of the state. That is a fascist method of operation.

    My dream is that both republicans and democrats will condemn these attempts. My sense of reality says that will never happen.
    • My dream is that both republicans and democrats will condemn these attempts

      My dream is that the American public wakes up so that we don't have to wait for Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dumb to do anything. With the two parties in control there is no real competition in politics and it's killing us from all sides.

      Don't think that either the Democrats or Republicans have the market cornered on common sense. They'll both prove you dead wrong.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 16, 2006 @02:16PM (#17269984)
    For what it's worth:

    "Recent news reports suggesting the Bush administration is trying to muzzle scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) by placing new controls on approval and release of research plans and products are off base and misinformed about the intent of the changes being formalized at the agency. Speaking as the senior biologist at the USGS, I am deeply concerned that longstanding legitimate scientific peer review processes that have been the basis of scientific practices at the USGS and other scientific agencies and organizations have been mischaracterized as inappropriate political controls on research. Peer review is the bedrock of processes in any credible science organization that ensures scientific conclusions or findings are robust, independent and objective.

    The USGS has had such processes in place for many years. As with any science enterprise, policies are periodically reviewed and updated to keep pace with changes in the organization. Our recently revised policy is an effort to do just that and has been developed by scientists and science managers (not political appointees) in an effort to coordinate existing review processes.

    Research supervisors in the review chain are simply charged with ensuring all USGS information products have addressed peer comments and are in compliance with USGS procedures with regard to the review and release of scientific information. Furthermore, the notion that senior leadership in an organization should not be alerted to significant findings that will directly impact policy development and decision-making is disturbing. Under current policy this information is transferred to policy makers as it is released to the public.

    Characterizing these reviews as an attempt by the Bush administration to control and censor scientific findings is inaccurate, is a disservice to those scientists who developed those processes in the spirit of continually improving our commitment to excellent science and undermines the bedrock of the peer review process as an arbiter of the credibility of individual science products and facilitator of science progress and discussion.
    "
  • by slew (2918) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @02:36PM (#17270162)
    I guess people would rather just bushbash than take a critical look at the USGS in specific...

    In case people don't remember, the USGS was the same agency that in 1998-2000 (under the clinton administration oversight) was accused of falsifying many research documents in support of the proposed nuclear waste processing facility in Yucca Mountain. I believe some of their scientists that were involved with this research falsification are under federal investigation for this today.

    I'm not saying all of their scientists are bad apples (they do some good research there), but the agency as a whole untainted as unbiased scientific researchers (as they know who butters their bread) and all the stuff that comes out of the door there should be taken with a grain of salt.

    In response to this and other problems, in 2004 (under the bush2 administration oversite), the USGS started a procedure of external peer review for their papers. This new "alert" of course goes beyond external peer review, so isn't all that great news, but I think the USGS has a long way to go to clean up their act before they cry idea censorship.

    Just my 2-cents worth...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      >was accused of falsifying many research documents in support of the proposed nuclear waste processing facility in Yucca Mountain.

      Which was almost certainly political interference with science, which is exactly what people are opposing here and now.
    • by misanthrope101 (253915) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @07:45PM (#17272434)
      the USGS was the same agency that in 1998-2000 (under the clinton administration oversight) was accused of falsifying many research documents
      So your argument is... what, exactly? Are you saying that science wasn't subordinated to politics? Are you saying that it happened, but it's okay since it happened under Clinton too? Are you saying that it's happening, but the people complaining about it are only complaining because of who the President is right now? You accuse people of "bushbashing" but you are the one making it political. This has happened time and time again--every time a real, significant problem is brought up, people like you come out of the woodwork crying bias and pandering, muddying the waters and casting aspersions on everyone's character, while pointedly failing to address the actual subject.

      We torture people? Ah, it must be election season, or you wouldn't bring that up. Saddam had no WMD? Ah, political pandering again from the liberals. Bush's policies make terrorism worse? Ah, more partisanship. Someone in the administration outed a CIA agent for political reasons? Ah, the liberals are playing politics again. We were lied to about the threat posed by Iraq to justify an invasion, and now we're mired in an open-ended, pointless war? My, the liberals hate Bush, don't they? That's all we freaking hear from the right wing. They never address anything--just accuse the speaker of partisanship. A senator is found to be a pedophile and would-be sexual predator? Oh, you're politicking again.

      Occasionally I get lucky and someone says this crap to my face, so I get to say "but is what I'm saying factually incorrect?" If you make people stay on the subject rather than going off on a tangent about whether or not an unbiased, completely objective person exists anywhere on the planet, things get a bit more interesting. Usually I just get resentful silence because they don't want to actually answer the question, but at least the smug "I'm not going to openly disagree with you, but what matters here is that you hate the president, so let's talk about that" crap gets stifled for a few seconds.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by slew (2918)
        My argument exactly is that the USGS seems to have it's share of biased research work product and hardly needs people to complain about it being "meddeled" with (from either party).

        There is strong suspicion that it is common that congressional members (under "suggestions" from people lobbying congress) direct research in government labs in order to provide fodder for their political arguments by convincing scientist of compatible political pursuation to initiate specific directly research with an agenda whi
  • by cyclone96 (129449) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @02:54PM (#17270378)
    I've done research in academia and industry, and I currently work for the US government.

    Having works reviewed by my agency (NASA) is always interesting. In academia, there is usually very little interference from the parent university (one of the basic tenets of tenure). The researchers opinion is never considered that of the university proper.

    It doesn't work that way in government, the distinction between the researcher and the parent agency doesn't exist (although if it did we would probably get better research). A paper put out by a government lab is sometimes construed as government policy, with the ensuing political or legal fallout.

    The last thing any senior administrator wants to deal with is a call from legislative affairs complaining about the conclusion of what was seemingly an obscure paper, or the lawyers from a company that was badmouthed in an environmental paper. I don't think these rules are active efforts to stifle information, it's simply folks trying to keep their agencies below the political radar (or by extension, department managers trying to keep their name from being attached to some problem that is showing up at agency headquarters). It's a shame really, but it's the way the world works.

    Government employees are in an odd gray area - if you worked for a private company, you most definitely would not have a "right" to expressing your opinion in a company paper - they are paying you, and would fire you. Government employees have a bit more freedom, and their management struggles to define what opinions do and do not belong in government works.
  • I told you so.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hey! (33014) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @03:26PM (#17270664) Homepage Journal
    Even before George W took the oath of office, I knew this was the type of man to do this sort of thing.

    I'd seen too many guys who lucked into a position way over their head not to recognize the type. When confronted with unpleasant truths, ignore them. Operate in an alternative world where everything is wonderful, and any subordinates thinking unhappy thoughts get wished out under the cornfield.

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @04:36PM (#17271132) Homepage

    The Bush administration's secrecy mania is about to run into Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA). He's the ranking minority member of the House Government Reform Committee. On January 20th, he will become chairman. And he will then have subpoena power over the Executive Branch.

    This is the congressman who published "Bush Administration's 237 Misleading Statements on Iraq" [house.gov]. He is totally fed up with the lying and secrecy. Expect to see many officials of the Bush administration being questioned by Waxman's commiteee on TV. Under penalty of perjury.

    Remember when all the cigarette company CEOs had to testify under oath about what they knew and when they knew it about addiction and hazards? That was Waxman.

    And climate is on his agenda. He's very interested in things like the Clean Air Act; he represents Los Angeles.

  • by segfault_0 (181690) on Saturday December 16, 2006 @04:40PM (#17271178)
    If you goto google news and read through more than just the one article it seems that although the White House was the originator for the changes - I havent seen anything saying that the White House has to be informed about anything - just the leadership of the USGS itself (who in turn report higher, but thats nothing new). I often have to show my presentations and outputs to my boss and dont automatically cry censorship - as do most of the people on this site I suspect. I understand that people are reacting to the concept layed out in the Slashdot lead and original article but sometimes you need to read a little further to have a reasonably well thought out opinion. I think the posts to the effect that Bush should be impeached, whether he deserves it or not, are way - way offtopic.

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