Friday, January 12, 2007

Climate Expert Silenced

This is an old story, but it bears repeating:

The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists.

Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. "They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public," he said.

Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the space agency, said there was no effort to silence Dr. Hansen. "That's not the way we operate here at NASA," Mr. Acosta said. "We promote openness and we speak with the facts."

He said the restrictions on Dr. Hansen applied to all National Aeronautics and Space Administration personnel. He added that government scientists were free to discuss scientific findings, but that policy statements should be left to policy makers and appointed spokesmen.


Should scientists be really be restricted from speaking on policy? Could it be argued that only they (and other scientists) truly understand the implications of their findings? Or is policy best left to the "policy makers" (politicians and their secretaries or, perhaps, corporate lobbyists) and their "appointed spokesmen" (puppets)? What really sets policy makers apart as experts on these issues? And shouldn't we be pushing the experts to speak on issues such as their areas of expertise?

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