White House Science Adviser Responds to Group’s Report Alleging Distortion of Data, Including Condom Research
The White House's chief science adviser -- Dr. John Marburger, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy -- on Friday responded to accusations by an advocacy group and 60 "prominent" scientists that the Bush administration has misrepresented "scientific information to suit its politics," the New York Times reports (Revkin, New York Times, 4/3). In February, the scientists released a statement saying that the Bush administration "frequently" suppresses or distorts scientific analyses from federal agencies -- including research on condoms and abortion -- when the data disagree with administration policies. The allegations were discussed in a conference call organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, which also issued a 38-page report, titled "Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: An Investigation into the Bush Administration's Misuse of Science," that details the group's accusations (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/19). Marburger released a letter to several members of Congress, along with a 17-page, "point-by-point rebuttal" of the accusations, according to the Washington Post. In his letter, Marburger said his intention was to "correct errors, distortions and misunderstandings" in the scientists' report. He added, "The accusations in the document are inaccurate. In this administration, science strongly informs policy."
Condoms and Abortion
In response to accusations that CDC had replaced a fact sheet about condoms on its Web site with a document outlining condom failure rates and the effectiveness of abstinence, Marburger said that the agency "routinely takes information off its Web site and replaces it with more up-to-date information," and the new document, which included new data from NIH, reflected that policy. He also responded to allegations that National Cancer Institute kept on its Web site a document identifying a possible link between abortion and breast cancer, even after researchers "debunked" the connection, according to the Post. Marburger said NCI removed the fact sheet "when it became clear that there was conflicting information in the published literature" (Weiss, Washington Post, 4/3). Marburger also responded to accusations that the administration picked members of scientific advisory panels based on its personal views and to allegations that the administration had revised scientific reports to better reflect White House policy.
Response from Union of Concerned Scientists
Kurt Gottfried, chair of the Union of Concerned Scientists and an emeritus professor of physics at Cornell University, said that the group would reexamine the issues. He added, "It's possible there are things we got wrong. We're not infallible, like the Vatican or the White House. But I don't think there's any reason to think we got the big picture wrong. In fact, our case is stronger now than when we produced that report" (New York Times, 4/3). He added that many of the scientists who signed the original letter "have served in many administrations, so when we say this is a new situation, there's some credibility to that" (Washington Post, 4/3).