Complaint Tests Rule Protecting Science From Politics : NPR
One of the first things President Obama did after he took office was put out a memo that basically said: Don’t mess with science.
The March 9, 2009, memorandum stated that “political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions” and said all government agencies should have appropriate rules and procedures to safeguard the scientific process.
Nearly three years later, only a few have finalized new policies — though they’re starting to be put to the test.
Meanwhile, many more agencies are still drawing up their plans and face a Dec. 17 deadline from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
“The order that President Obama issued in March of 2009 was a better job than I could have written myself. It was quite a bold declaration, and we’re waiting for it to be filled in,” says Jeff Ruch, a lawyer with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a group that helps scientists who feel they’re under political pressure.
Ruch’s complaint alleges that federal officials with the Bureau of Land Management hired researchers to do a major review of all the different environmental impacts on a half-dozen regions in the Western U. S., but directed the scientists to exclude livestock grazing from the analysis.
Government officials said they didn’t include livestock grazing in the review because they didn’t have the appropriate data. But Ruch doesn’t buy it. He says livestock grazing on public land is a touchy subject because any restrictions would affect ranchers.
“To us, this is exactly the sort of abuse that the White House directive was designed to prevent,” says Ruch. “And so we will file a formal complaint, under one of the few policies that exist.”