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I never bought the nonsense against Bush that he was anti science and skewed facts to fit his belief system.  That cetainly wasn’t true in the embryonic stem cell issue, which was a fight over proper ethics, not science. In fact, Bush’s faith that scientists could find ethical approaches to obtaining pluripotent stem cell sources bore fruit: They are and they did.

Some claim that the Bushes skewed climate warming data.  I don’t know about that: I wouldn’t trust anything James Hansen said either.  But I do know that Obama has played fast and loose with the science surrounding the Gulf Oil Spill—someone in his administration even faking validation for a drilling moratorium from scientific advisers—who protested they had done no such thing.  The relative silence about most of the Obama shenanigans was a predictable consequence of MSM bias—not that it wasn’t reported, but if it had been the evil Bush, the story would have been front page and driven the news for days.  That’s how bias works.

But now, some scientists are noticing.  From a column by Peter Aldhous in NewScientist:

A US government report on a pressing environmental issue is edited to falsely imply that scientists had peer-reviewed and supported the central policy recommendation. Almost 1 in 4 government scientists working on food safety say they have been asked by their bosses to exclude or alter technical information in scientific documents during the past year. These incidents sound as if they come from the dark days of George W. Bush’s presidency, when complaints about political interference in government science reached a crescendo. But in fact, both refer to the behaviour of the current US administration, led by a president who famously promised to “restore science to its rightful place” in his inauguration speech of January 2009.

Two months later, a presidential memo seemed to seal the deal: “The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions,” Obama stated. Scientific information used by the federal government in making policy should be published, he added, and political officials should not suppress or alter scientific findings. John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, was given 120 days to draft a new policy on scientific integrity in government. We’re still waiting for that policy to see the light of day.

I think Bush and Obama people may have pushed in different directions, which is why the difference in indignation levels from the usual suspects.  But, Aldhous reports that political tinkering may even be worse now:
In March, the UCS sent a questionnaire to scientists involved in food safety at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture. Of those who replied, 23 per cent said that they had been asked to “inappropriately exclude or alter technical information” from agency scientific documents within the previous year. The survey offers little evidence that things have improved much under Obama. At the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Nutrition, they may even have got worse. In 2006, during Bush’s second term, a similar UCS survey found that 10 per cent of its scientists they had been asked to inappropriately exclude or alter information in the previous year; the 2010 figure was 16 per cent.

I believe that in Bush’s day—and now—some of what passes for “science” is really ideology or opinions about best policy.  And it is important to keep in mind that the deciders don’t have to blindly follow what the scientists say—while certainly considering and accurately stating the best scientific evidence.  Still, I found it refreshing to see a column in a respected scientific publication saying what is good for the goose, should also be good for the gander.

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