The government relies on scientific analysis and research in order to create sound public policy. Unbiased research not only pushes the government to make decisions that are guided by facts — it also increases public trust in the policymaking process.
But government science is increasingly coming under the threat of politicization and abuse by actors in the executive branch. A new report released by the bipartisan National Task Force on Rule of Law & Democracy at the Brennan Center highlights how recent administrations have suppressed and manipulated research by scientists in the federal government in order to hide evidence that their plans and policies are flawed, underscoring the need for stronger laws that protect scientific integrity. It also outlines ways to stop this from happening in the future.
Here are five times the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations undermined scientific integrity by interfering with the findings of federal government researchers for political reasons.
NASA political appointees censored agency’s top climate scientist
James E. Hansen served as director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies for more than 30 years, where he had long issued public warnings about global warming. On at least one occasion, a political appointee in the agency’s public affairs office denied a media request to interview Hansen, saying that his job was to “make the president look good.”
NASA’s attempts to censor his research and other climate data were scrutinized during a House oversight committee hearing and in an inspector general’s report, which found that NASA’s public affairs office repeatedly “managed the topic of climate change in a manner that reduced, marginalized, or mischaracterized climate change science.”