Restoring Scientific Integrity

  • Seth Shulman  

Ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away.

After eight years of ignoring science, the U.S. government has had a change of heart.

“Already in the new administration, we are seeing positive signs. Obama gets it,” science journalist and author Seth Shulman said.

Unfortunately, Shulman explained, there has been a brain-drain of experts in agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It will take a long time to get that expertise back,” he said.

Shulman, who has worked for more than 25 years as an investigative journalist, specializes in issues in science, technology and the environment. He will deliver the Bonchek Lecture on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 7:30 p.m. His lecture is titled “Restoring Scientific Integrity: Advice for the New Administration.” It is free and open to the public.

“We’ve just come through an unprecedented period, which, it has been well documented, put political consideration above science,” Shulman said.

In areas such as the protection of endangered species, reproductive health and the environment, he said, the Bush administration ignored the scientific data.

“It’s important to remember that scientific data doesn’t dictate policy. It informs policy,” Shulman said. “What happened in the Bush administration is that before science could do its job, we have seen an across-the-board suppression and distortion of the information.”

In 2004, Shulman’s work earned international attention when he served as the lead author of two investigative reports, issued by the Union of Concerned Scientists, charging the administration of President George W. Bush with a misuse of science and lack of scientific integrity in policy-making.

“This is not a fringe judgment,” Shulman insisted.

More than 12,000 U.S. scientists, including 48 Nobel Laureates and 62 National Medal of Science winners, have endorsed the findings.

Shulman’s reporting on the topic was expanded in 2006 into the book Undermining Science: Suppression and Distortion in the Bush Administration.

An award-winning journalist, Shulman’s science reporting has appeared in Nature, the Smithsonian, the Atlantic, Discover, Rolling Stone, Parade and Popular Science magazines, as well as in The Times of London, the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times.

He is also the author of Unlocking the Sky: Glenn Hammond Curtiss and the Race to Invent the Airplane, published in 2003, and The Threat at Home: Confronting the Toxic Legacy of the U.S. Military, published in 1992. In 2004, he was named the Dibner Science Writer Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The event is sponsored by the Bonchek Institute for Reason and Science in a Liberal Democracy, the Center for Liberal Arts and Society and the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House.

The Bonchek Lecture seeks to foster an appreciation of the importance of reason, skepticism, and the scientific method in maintaining a liberal democracy. The Institute was founded in 2000 by College Trustee Dr. Lawrence Bonchek P’91, and his wife Rita Bonchek P ’91.

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