This is supposed to be my day off, but I keep getting dragged back to a story from earlier this week that we really haven’t had time to tackle thus far. It deals with that highly controversial NOAA study from June of this year which purported to “debunk” the idea that global warming has gone into a pause, or even receded a bit during this decade. Once the study was released, a number of members of Congress, led by Lamar Smith, (R-TX 21) asked NOAA chief Kathryn Sullivan to come discuss the issue. Among the requests being made is an order to see the minutes of the deliberations of the various scientists involved and for their data to be put up for public scrutiny. Amazingly, Sullivan has thus far flatly refused to show their work, and now a coalition of other scientists have signed a letter of endorsement, calling on her to bravely avoid being “bullied” by Congress. (Washington Post)
Scientists keep rallying behind Kathryn Sullivan, the federal official on one side of a two-month standoff with a senior House Republican over a groundbreaking climate change study.
On Monday, the chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration received a letter signed by 587 individual scientists from chemists to biologists urging to hold her ground against House science committee Chairman Lamar Smith’s campaign to discredit NOAA scientists. It follows a letter last month signed by seven scientific organizations representing hundreds of thousands of researchers warning that his efforts are “establishing a practice of inquests”that will have a chilling effect…
“We urge you to continue to stand firm against these bullying tactics in order to protect NOAA scientists’ ability to pursue research and publish data and results regardless of how contentious the issue may be,” wrote the scientists, members of the Science Network of the Union of Concerned Scientists , a nonprofit science advocacy group.
“Please continue to resist this dangerous abuse of congressional oversight power.”
There are actually a couple of different, jaw dropping items in this story which seem mystifying even in comparison to the normal comings and goings in the morass of the federal government. From the strictly good government side of the equation, NOAA is a public entity which is primarily funded by the taxpayers. (And they’ve been caught playing fast and loose with your cash on more than one occasion.) The idea that Congress doesn’t have complete authority to engage in oversight of their work should be offensive to everyone in the country.
But on a far more basic level, we’re talking about the scientific process here. Since when is the process for critically examining data and arriving at substantive conclusions some sort of clandestine, secret process? We’re not talking about an agency that’s guarding sensitive national security secrets. This is allegedly science. The entire concept of solid research involves extensive peer reviews where other experts can put your theories and conclusions to the test and see if they can either replicate or repudiate your results. What do these scientists have to hide from the public even if they weren’t being funded on the taxpayer’s dime?
This refusal is a breach of trust with the public. Personally, I think that Congress needs to do a lot more than drag Sullivan out on the floor to demand answers… she needs to be fired. This is an abuse of her office and further diminishes any sense of trust the public should have in her work.
The original article incorrectly referenced Lamar Smith rather than Kathryn Sullivan in the text.