Friday, August 13, 2004

An Activist Congressman Blocks Hearing...
But At Least We Have Moral Clarity

Here at The Corpus Callosum, I've written previously about the various compliants voiced by scientists about the current Administration's abuses, distortions, and misuses of science, as well as the political obstacles to research.  Much of what has been written about the subject lately has been a rehash of old news.  Today, though, I ran across something I had not known before. 

Volume 18 | Issue 15 | 50 | Aug. 2, 2004
Bush and Science at Loggerheads
Barriers to research and claims of suppressed data sully interactions between researchers and the administration
By Dana Wilkie

[...] There is little sign of détente breaking out. In April, a report from the General Accounting Office (GAO) concluded that the federal government could give better direction to federal agencies on creating panels that would be "perceived as balanced."5 Democrats demanded a congressional hearing on this report, but committee chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), refused to hold one. "What we're dealing with here is whether open, balanced, and objective scientific information is being made available to policymakers and to the public," said Representative Brian Baird (D-Wash.) who may write legislation to enact some of the GAO's suggestions.

5. "Additional guidance could help agencies better ensure independence and balance," US General Accounting Office, April 2004, available online at www.gao.gov/new.items/d04328.pdf

Defenders of President Bush have a fallback position.  Even if you don't agree with everything that Bush does, at least he has moral clarity.  As is evident from his position on embryonic stem cell research:

Stem-cell research decision: Some funding, many questions
Bush's approach to limit research is viewed by many as a workable compromise, though some scientists wonder if progress will also be limited.

By Stephanie Stapleton,
AMNews staff.
Aug. 27, 2001.

[...] Though the president's compromise has been described as workable and reasonable, it has also been criticized -- because it went too far or did not go far enough.

"It's a fine line the president is walking," Dr. Schaffner said. The whole question of stem-cell research is "a very complicated area ethically and politically."

Groups such as the Christian Medical Assn. expressed disappointment. "I am concerned that by funding research on stem cells taken from embryos who were previously destroyed, we are breaking down a vital moral barrier," said David Stevens, MD, the group's executive director.

Many researchers, though, breathed sighs of relief.

"We would say the president's decision is a step in the right direction," said Elaine Fuchs, PhD, president of the American Society for Cell Biology and a professor at the University of Chicago. "I think that opens the door to the nation's brightest scientists."

[...] Others worry that working with a finite number of lines will create racial, ethnic and gender diversity issues.

[...] More concerns focus on the proprietary nature of the existing lines and what kinds of strings will be attached to them for researchers to gain access.

[...] NIH will negotiate material transfer agreements with holders of stem-cell lines. MTAs "are a problem when only academic institutions are involved but get even more complicated when companies are involved," Dr. Goldstein said.

"...went too far or did not go far enough", "...breaking down a moral barrier", "...a step in the right direction", "...racial, ethnic and gender diversity issues", "... get even more complicated when companies are involved."   That's moral clarity?

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