Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Scientific Integrity is an Oxymoron

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By Donna Laframboise

A senior public servant thinks scientists should be passionate, engaged activists.

A few weeks ago an official based in Washington, DC touched down in Australia – 16,000 kilometers distant. She then traveled another 2,400 kilometers north to an out-of-the-way city named Cairns. With the Great Barrier Reef as a backdrop, she proceeded to deliver one of the scariest speeches ever.  The official’s name is Jane Lubchenco. As the Under Secretary of Commerce for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this woman heads a monstrous organization that spends $4 billion worth of taxpayers’ money each year. In other circumstances, I might be inspired by Lubchenco. She has a high-powered position in the reportedly excessively macho Obama administration. Moreover, her paternal grandfather (like my maternal grandparents) emigrated to North America from the Ukraine.

Instead, I’m appalled by the influence this woman now wields over a field I once respected and admired – science…..In Lubchenco’s universe there is apparently no danger of scientists going overboard, of unconsciously biasing their research. She seems to think that earning a scientific degree somehow transforms individuals into infallible beings who will never fall victim to self-delusion, whose judgment will always be impeccable.

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