As reported in FYI #34, the House Science Committee has held two hearings
on the FY 2007 NASA budget request (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/034.html.)
During the first hearing on February 16, Chairman Sherwood Boehlert
(R-NY) discussed his satisfaction with actions taken by NASA Administration
Michael Griffin to respond to charges that an agency official had restricted
the activities of a prominent climate change researcher, James Hansen.
Boehlert sent Griffin a letter in late January protesting these restrictions
Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) had also written
to Griffin about these restrictions, asking for a "detailed
explanation of NASA's policies on information sharing between government
scientists and policy-makers as well as the general public. We also
request detailed clarification of NASA's policies and practices regarding
the independence of NASA scientists' work and statements made about
their work." NASA subsequently dismissed the agency official
because of misrepresentations on that individual's resume.
Boehlert and Ranking Member Bart Gordon (D-TN) addressed their satisfaction
with Griffin's resolution of this issue as follows:
BOEHLERT'S OPENING REMARKS:
"Since the concerns of Dr. Hansen became known, the
Administrator, the Deputy Administrator, Mr. Gordon and I have been
working together to ensure that NASA is a model of scientific openness.
"From the start, NASA has been responsive to our inquiries,
and Mike Griffin began taking steps to rectify the problems. NASA
still has a lot of work to do to ensure openness - that's Administrator
Griffin's view as well as my own. But they have laid out a plan to
do that work - starting with engaging in an open process to develop
a clear policy on scientific communication. We will be working with
NASA and following the development of the policy and its implementation
closely. But I have high hopes that NASA will end up being a model
of how agencies can guarantee scientific openness."
GORDON'S LETTER TO ADMINISTRATION GRIFFIN:
"I appreciate your letter responding to my concerns
about censorship of scientific findings by NASA public affairs officials.
Your letter is clear and unequivocal in your position on the issue
and the steps you have initiated to review and improve policies related
to promoting the free and open exchange of scientific and technical
"The extensive discussions you and your top staff have
had with me, my Science Committee Staff Director and others reflect
your commitment to correct any inappropriate or conflicting policies
to the openness you insist on at NASA. Your statement that you, will
not tolerate any policy or action whereby Public Affairs Officers
filter, alter, edit, or censor scientific findings and facts' is just
the kind of position I had hoped you would adopt. Further, the policy
development group you have convened reflects action attached to words.
"Given our conversations and the responsible way you
are dealing with the allegations spurred on by the Hansen issue, I
am confident that you will continue ferreting out the truth, holding
wrongdoers accountable and developing new policies to ensure the free,
open and uncensored exchange of sound scientific information. It is
our desire to closely track your progress. We expect that you will
keep the Members of the Committee fully and completely informed. Let's
continue the productive dialogue that we've begun."
"I look forward to continued discussion on the development
of new policies and Agency practices. I only hope that others in top
leadership positions throughout the Executive Branch agencies follow
Not all questions surrounding the Administration's policies are likely
to be put to rest by Griffin's actions. Rep. David Wu (D-OR) asked Office
of Science and Technology Policy Director John Marburger several pointed
questions during a hearing last month about several instances of what
WU called "allegations of scientific manipulations and censorship."
Marburger agreed to investigate one of the incidents that Wu described
regarding a forest research grant at Oregon State University and to
provide the congressman with a response in writing.
Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics