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2006 AGU Annual Meeting

Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute,
“The Integrity of Science: Identifying Logical Fallacies, Deceitful Tactics, and Abuse of the Public Trust”

Science, government, and society interact in diverse and complex ways, but good scientific information and advice are vital for making sound policy decisions. Recent efforts to discredit or distort science for political agendas raise difficult questions for the scientific community. As a result, there is growing distrust of scientists – long held in esteem by the public – and a growing misuse of science critical for public policy. This paper will categorize and define more than 20 different kinds of problems that challenge the integrity of science, including logical fallacies, such as Arguments from Ideology, Personal Incredulity, or Ignorance; and deceitful tactics, such as ad hominem attacks, “straw man” mischaracterizations, scientific misconduct, and misuse of facts. Examples from the geophysical sciences and its intersection with the public policy arena will be presented, together with suggestions for strengthening the public trust.

Judith Curry, Georgia Tech University,
“Falling out of the Ivory Tower: a Case Study of Mixing Hurricane Science, Politics, and the Media”

During the past year, I was one of a group of several scientists investigating trends in hurricane characteristics that became embroiled in a public and acrimonious debate on the role of global warming in increasing hurricane activity. None of us had any substantial prior experience with the media or policy makers. Further, none of us had previously made public statements regarding global warming nor were we experts on the attribution of global warming. Hurricane Katrina served as a focusing event on the subject of global warming, and it often seemed like the fate of public acceptance of global warming hinged on the latest development in the hurricane and global warming debate. In the context of our experiences over the past year, this talk summarizes

  • challenges that we have faced in communicating “relevant” science to the public and policy makers in the context of the values gap between scientists, policy makers, and reporters,
  • the dilemma of involvement with policy makers and advocacy groups,
  • the impact of political and scientific bias on the scientific process, including “turf wars” among scientists and government agencies, and
  • the role of professional societies and blogs.

Don Kennedy, Stanford University
“Science, Policy, and Peer Review”

These are intense times at the convergence between science and public policy. Because issues like climate change, stem cell research and environmental protection are being contested in choppy political water, political interests are being deployed to challenge science and researchers, and also to generate pseudo-scientific claims made in the interest of particular policy ends. In a number of cases reported in Science, administration officials have silenced their own employees, or withheld data selectively from draft reports. Added to that challenge to integrity, there is a new statutory environment that adds some complexity of its own. Beginning with the Data Quality Act, more familiarly the “Shelby Amendment,” research results with significant economic impacts through regulation are now available through the Freedom of Information Act. Its successor, the Data Quality Act – which opens a route of challenge to information released by government or gathered by others and used in advice or regulation – has exposed scientists not only to having their primary data reanalyzed for the purposes of others, but to charges of research misconduct. These influences have made journal peer review more challenging in several ways, and I will outline some case examples.

Francesca Grifo, Union of Concerned Scientists,
“Preventing Federal Government Abuse of Science”

Investigations by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the mainstream media provide evidence of widespread and serious political interference in federal government science. To restore scientific integrity to the policy making process, the United States must adopt reforms that adequately protect government scientists, provide better scientific advice to Congress, strengthen the Office of Science and Technology Policy, ensure the independence of scientific advisory committees, and effectively insulate government science from politics. Methods for accomplishing these goals include ensuring that the next president is committed to respecting the scientific process and pressing Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities. Creating meaningful reform will require the persistent and energetic engagement of the scientific community—in universities, laboratories, government agencies, and private companies. Individual scientists and scientific institutions have the opportunity to monitor the way science informs policy making and to act to defend the integrity of science. More at

Timothy L. Killeen, President, American Geophysical Union
(Abstract TK)

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2006 AGU Annual Meeting

Speaker Bios


Integrity of Science Initiative