March 3, 2024

Obama accused of politicising science

Controversy over census bureau

There were few tears from scientists at the departure of President George W. Bush from the White House. Many of them felt strongly that the Republican Party had politicised science. President Barack Obama, they thought, would bring a new dawn. "We will restore science to its rightful place," he promised in his inaugural speech. So what has become one of the first streaks of mud to stick to the new President? The allegation that he is politicising science.

Obama’s second nominee for Commerce Secretary, Republican Senator Judd Gregg, withdrew partly because he had baulked at allowing the Census Bureau to report directly to the White House instead of to him. A senior Census bureaucrat told the Wall Street Journal that "There’s only one reason to have that high level of White House involvement. And it’s called politics, not science."

Gregg’ nomination was questioned by minority groups who want census figures to be based on sampling techniques with margins of error. Critics say that these could be manipulated by politicians. Last year seven former Census directors declared that they supported a bill to turn the Census Bureau into an independent agency after the 2010 Census. "It is vitally important that the American public have confidence that the census results have been produced by an independent, non-partisan, apolitical, and scientific Census Bureau," they said.

"The real issue is who directs the Census, the pros or the pols," says Bruce Chapman, a former census director. "You would think an administration that’s thumping its chest about respecting science would show a little respect for scientists in the statistical field." ~ Wall Street Journal, Feb 10