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News Censorship at NASA, NOAA

  1. Jan 28, 2006 #1
    From the headline of today's New York Times:
    link
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 28, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 28, 2006 #2

    Bystander

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    Nerp. You work for "Uncle," you don't flush the toilet without an editorial review board's approval.
     
  4. Jan 29, 2006 #3

    SOS2008

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    If they suppress information long enough, they will accomplish their goal of destroying the world -- without spending a cent or firing a shot. :wink:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11079935/
     
  5. Jan 29, 2006 #4

    Gokul43201

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    Reminds me of the deal Saddam had for allowing UN inspectors to interview Iraqi scientists.
     
  6. Jan 29, 2006 #5

    Bystander

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    "... many scientists who routinely took calls from reporters five years ago can now do so only if the interview is approved by administration officials in Washington, and then only if a public affairs officer is present or on the phone."

    Not just "can now do so," but for a loonnngggg time before Hoagland embarassed NASA with his Cydonia buffoonery. Terms of employment are that employees present nothing to the public that can be misconstrued as a governmental "position" on any topic without first clearing internal agency, bureau, center, department, division, institute, committee, branch, ta-da, ta-da, ta-da reviews. Experience has shown that media reporters can misrepresent any remark; therefore, the review process for all communications, written and oral, with the public, and particularly the press has long been in place.
     
  7. Jan 29, 2006 #6

    SOS2008

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    “James E. Hansen, longtime director…says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.”

    Legitimate reasons for government review were brought up, but Hansen disagreed, pointing to the over all Bush administration record of preventing the public from learning “recent findings about climate change that point to risks ahead.”
     
  8. Jan 30, 2006 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    I'm sure this is just part of the conspiracy to perpetuate the myth of GCC. Besides, I don't see why anyone here would object to censorship of scientific information by federal officials. Why would anyone need to defend that one? This is probably part of the war on terror.
     
  9. Feb 8, 2006 #8
    Full article here http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/08/politics/08nasa.html?_r=1
     
  10. Feb 8, 2006 #9

    Nereid

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    http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/" (lots of details, and it seems Deutsch resigned, possibly because he was caught lying on his resume, a fact revealed to us all by a blogger).

    Some choice quotes (all totally out of context, of course!):
    Censorship is one thing; requiring NASA to toe a creationist line is quite another.
     
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  11. Feb 10, 2006 #10
    You seem to be arguing that this is a good practice, then (ie, having to obtain clearance before revealing findings to the public/press). Just taking this reason into account does seem to make logical sense, but the policy seems to be implemented in a potentially very dangerous way... quoting the OP:
    This seems to be suppression of vital information that requires urgent action.
     
  12. Feb 10, 2006 #11

    Astronuc

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    It is one thing to provide "editorial review" in which the editorial staff assist one in communicating one's ideas or information to the public more effectively. It is quite another to interject contrary opinions into one's work, put another's words or conclusions into one's work, or delete or omit one's conclusions or opinions. It would seem the editorial board was doing the latter, and that is unacceptable!
     
  13. Feb 10, 2006 #12
    What? He is implying we get every moron's opinion on the matter then present them all to the public. F*** you, buddy. Scientists can make any conjectures they want, even if it contradicts religious beliefs, as long as they are using the scientific method and presenting as SCIENCE. If you don't want scientists to use the scientific method, fine, lets see how many satelites we get in orbit by praying and blessing the shuttle with holy water.

    I hate politics so much.
     
  14. Feb 10, 2006 #13

    Art

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    "He who pays the piper calls the tune"

    It may be wrong philisophically but it is an unpleasant fact of life.

    I am not saying it is right but it is a fact of life that scientists working for any corporation, gov't or whatever are expected to toe the party line.

    Would scientists working for tobacco companies be allowed by their employers to publish findings showing addiction or cancers linked to smoking?

    Would your company allow you to publish damaging information you unearthed in your job?

    The government relies on right wing support and has an energy policy based on denial of GW and so it stands to reason they will intervene to suppress information contrary to their interests.

    As I mentioned in another thread on this issue NASA prostituted itself to the gov't years ago with the U-2 spy plane incident and so their outrage now seems a little hollow.
     
  15. Feb 10, 2006 #14

    Astronuc

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    I am known to dissent, when the evidence supports my position, and I will not compromise on the 'truth'. I reserve the right to dissent. :biggrin:

    Not the entire government.

    That was then, this is now. NASA changes with the people, who change with the times.
     
  16. Feb 10, 2006 #15

    Art

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    Thats a politicians answer if I've ever seen one :biggrin:

    Legislative and executive branches then. :tongue2:

    Astronuc I'm sure you'd agree that in science particularly once one's reputation has been shredded it is nighon impossible to ever regain trust and respect. And to be honest their shuttle disasters have hardly enhanced their reputations in recent years.
     
  17. Feb 10, 2006 #16

    BobG

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    The American taxpayers "pay the piper" for NASA and NOAA. The government can cut the budget, increase the budget, but, however much we're paying, we're paying for science, not contributing to someone's political campaign.
     
  18. Feb 10, 2006 #17

    Astronuc

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    Nah, I just choose to do what is right, i.e. I stand my ground :grumpy:, and I tend to be contrarian by nature. :biggrin:

    Yes, once one's integrity is compromised it is virtually impossible to recover.

    With respect to the shuttle disasters, different people making bad decisions. That's why I prefer to limit the influence of political appointees and business managers when it comes to technical matters, particular in the case of technology that challenges the limits. I know a lot of great people in NASA. Unfortunately, it's the actions of a few inept or incompetent individuals which seems to overshadow the really excellent work done at NASA. Hopefully the current administrator will improve the environment.
     
  19. Feb 10, 2006 #18

    SOS2008

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    Hear! Hear!
    Good point. The decision to launch when weather was poor, for example, was made for political reasons.

    Time and again the thought of civilization and how far we’ve progressed reminds us that history repeats itself.

    http://64.233.179.104/search?q=cache:A3Ito65W66kJ:www.stormfront.org/whitehistory/hwr41.htm+Dark+Ages+%26+suppression+of+scientific+information&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1 [Broken]

    Could we ever learn something from our mistakes, just once?
     
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  20. Feb 10, 2006 #19

    Art

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    It still goes back to what I said "Money talks",

    So long as there are scientists prepared to sell their ethics for fame or fortune then politicians and others will continue to own them.

    Perhaps the professional bodies for each science group should have the power and duty to strip members of their qualifications if they are found to have deliberately misrepresented science.

    Probably just wishful thinking but until there's pain involved in getting caught the equation is loaded in favour of taking the easy money.
     
  21. Feb 10, 2006 #20

    Bystander

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    Not "good." Necessary --- the hired help are not constitutionally empowered to make policy decisions (there are odd legislated regulatory functions, EPA, OSHA, et cetera). It isn't a matter of "clearance," but of approval by an editorial review board of the content and connotations. "Clearance" would be publishing the details of U-enrichment processes, details of the ignition circuits for nuclear weapons, specifications for the explosives to be used --- that sort of thing.

    "Information" is not suppressed --- speculations on information, or upon the uses of information are monitored and on occasion restricted.

    Let's put it this way: my experiences with editorial review boards, not journal editorial "staff," have been that introductions and conclusions are written (telepathically --- 'it's your work') by boards rather than first authors. That is, papers from Uncle's labs are best read as "abstract, theory and experimental, data, occasionally a discussion section," and that one should ignore intros and conclusions. Those are written for the purposes of quick excerption to executive summaries for bureau, lab, and center directors presentations to congressional budget hearings.
     
  22. Feb 10, 2006 #21

    Nereid

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    Let's be sure that we're dealing with what happened here, shall we?

    There are two different things, related, but different.

    One - that the OP is about - concerns James E. Hansen; may I ask if anyone is unsure of the facts?

    The second - which my post was about - concerns George Deutsch; it is this which got me riled up. What sent me ballistic was the apparently quite blatant attempt by a political appointee, with no science training (let alone a PhD in cosmology or General Relativity), to insert his religious views into the material issued by NASA (written at least in part by scientists working in the fields about which they were writing) to the general public. No, cancel that; what sent me ballistic was how small an incident this seems to be perceived, in the US, and on this science-oriented discussion forum.

    I mean, is the USA an official theocracy? Or does its constitution clearly require separation of church and state? Does the charter of NASA include a requirement that science-related public material that goes out with its name on it do so with a 'health warning'? (Something like this perhaps? “This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. [...] young people [need to get the whole science/religion] debate from NASA. [NASA must] properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most.” by providing religious text to accompany it?!?). When astronomers and cosmologists sign their employment contract with NASA, are they required to agree that they add caveats about religion to whatever they write concerning astronomy and cosmology?

    So, I am very interested to hear what Bystander and Art have to say in defence of Deutsch's actions and intentions.

    If I am not mistaken, Bystander has training in chemistry (a PhD?); let's see if can recast one of Deutsch's emails (well, extract) in terms that may apply to that field of science:
    How does that sit with PF members reading this?

    And how about you Art? What 'version' of Deutsch's email would get your dander up?
    And do we have a set of diversionary moves here?

    Even for the OP/Hansen issue, is this about 'publish[ing] findings showing {inconsistencies in the scientific results produced by other NASA scientists}?

    And how is this - Would your company allow you to publish damaging information you unearthed in your job? - relevant to publishing summarised versions of the peer-reviewed results of their (and colleagues') work? (I'm really quite interested, Art).
    I don't want to misunderstand, so let me tread slowly ...

    Are you endorsing Deutsch's actions? Do you feel that, in the US, it is quite acceptable for a political appointee to require religious-based qualifications to be added to public statements, on astronomy and cosmology, made by astronomers and cosmologists paid at least in part by NASA?
    I seem to have missed it Art, where did you get the idea that it was NASA doing the objecting and making waves? And even if it was, how is what they did wrt 'the U-2 spy plane incident' relevant to public material written by scientists on the subject of their scientific work?
     
  23. Feb 10, 2006 #22

    Nereid

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    Just so that I'm clear here Art, what are you saying concerning what the employment contracts of astronomers, climate scientists, and (above all) cosmologists, in terms of what they write - based on their published research - for public consumption (under their own names)?

    And, wrt Deutsch, in what way did the US taxpayers give political appointees the power to require the insertion of religion into NASA's public materials on astronomy and cosmology?
    And how is this relevant to this thread?
    For avoidance of doubt, how much experience - direct or indirect - do you have Art with how 'easy' it is to take US taxpayer money from scientific agencies such as NASA?
     
  24. Feb 11, 2006 #23
    Nereid, I am relieved to see your outrage about this incident and its implications. What is worrying is how few scientists are actually joining you in your condemnation of this whole affair - the question is, why is this the case? Are they worried about their jobs, perhaps? Perhaps this is what Art meant by his comment about "He who pays the piper calls the tune" (well, in any case, this is what I thought he meant). I don't believe Art is condoning this attitude - just pointing out that it seems to be the reality of what's happening right now. The US constitution may clearly require separation of church and state, but such events seem to indicate that this separation is no longer being adhered to. I believe that you are right to be angry about this and I support your condemnation (but I am not a US citizen, so what I say on this issue does not really count).
     
  25. Feb 11, 2006 #24

    Bystander

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    Nothing. Politicians, political appointees, and journalists do not now have, never have had, and never will have the understanding necessary to deal with scientific questions and issues. Been that way since Og brained Thag, took over the troop in Olduvai, and put his brother in charge of assigning hunting and gathering tasks --- it's a wonder the species survived.
    No. It's about Hansen communicating personal opinion(s) under an "official" venue. Had he stated to the press that it was his personal opinion that AGW was real, or that GHGs are a concern, he'd be in the clear. Were I still working for Uncle and questioned in the same venue on the same topic, I'd likewise be in the clear stating that Uncle has no policy position on the matter based on present data, but that my personal opinion is that there is no measured or measurable greenhouse effect observed to date. Were I to state "No...," without the personal disclaimer, I'd be in as much trouble as Hansen is.

    The NYT is creating news from a non-issue. Political appointees to various agencies, bureaus, and labs have nominal functions as directors and liaisons to the legislative and executive branches. Those functions are seldom executed with any expertise or competence. Their actual functions are to be underfoot, in the way, and generate blizzards of vapid, inane, fatuous memos and e-mails. Such communications are read when received by employees only to the point of establishing their origins (FROM: Secretary of ..., or, Director's Office ...), then "filed" in the circular (or "delete") receptacle, and compliance with such drivel follows to the same degree.
     
  26. Feb 11, 2006 #25

    Art

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    Precisely. If Neried has ever read anything I have ever posted I think he would realise I am not the sort of person who would condone this type of interference by gov't/church in science. I abhor actions such as this as much as he does.

    My point is that non-scientific influence on science whether for profit, church or politics is so endemic that when cases such as this are exposed it is not as shocking as it should be.

    My next point was that by and large the general body of scientists are themselves to blame for not speaking out more and refusing to go along with these obfuscations and so whilst I have considerable sympathy and support for individuals who do stand up and expose this type of outrageous interference it is my belief that scientists are only victims of this behaviour because they let themselves be victims. Presumably because of fear of job security, monetary gain or to curry favour.

    I think Neried is so incensed by this interference he is 'looking for a fight in an empty room' I don't see anyone here condoning it, just pointing out it (unfortunately) isn't unusual.

    The second part is (having ranted about the injustices of it all), discussing possible solutions. i.e. what can the scientific community do to prevent instances such as this. For some reason when I brought this up Neried questioned it's relevancy??? :confused:

    BobG said
    which is a laudable sentiment but is akin to saying 'We don't need policemen because there shouldn't be any crime'

    To avoid further misunderstanding I'll summarise very simply;

    1) I agree political appointees (and other non-scientists) censoring or asking scientists to 'spin' their results to fit an agenda is terrible.

    2) Why is this currently allowed to happen?

    3) How does one stop it?
     
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