Do as I Say, Not as I Do

Marina Ziemnick

CounterCurrent: Week of 1/16

Just weeks after taking office, in the middle of a long winter of COVID lockdowns, President Biden released a memo on “Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking.” Though he never mentioned the virus by name, Biden undoubtedly sought to reassure beleaguered Americans with his declaration that it was “the policy of [his] Administration to make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data.” 

The memo established a “Task Force on Scientific Integrity” to conduct a review on scientific integrity policies in governmental agencies and offer recommendations intended to increase public trust in federal policies said to be based on science. Now, nearly one year later, the Task Force has released its findings and recommendations in a report titled “Protecting the Integrity of Government Science.” Let’s take a look, shall we? 

At first glance, the contents of the report seems to be unobjectionable, and perhaps even laudable. The authors emphasize the importance of credible scientific research, noting that “[a] robust democracy requires a common wellspring of reliable information.” They even offer a statement in support of dissent within the scientific community and declare that “[s]cientists’ ability to freely voice the legitimate disagreement that improves science should not be constrained.” The report states clearly that the practice of science itself should be “free of political, ideological, financial, and corporate influence” and that the use of science by policymakers ought to be “unbiased and unencumbered by special interests.”

These statements may seem to suggest that the Task Force holds a high view of science and respects the integrity of the scientific process. But unfortunately, the picture isn’t quite as pretty as it first appears. 

If you read the report in its entirety, you’ll notice a particular phrase repeated again and again: “diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.” Within the first couple pages, DEIA is identified as the first of several “important, emergent issues of our time” that scientific integrity policies must address. The Task Force later recommends that agencies “incorporate DEIA considerations into all aspects of science planning, execution, and communication.” One has to ask—will federal scientists have the ability to “freely voice legitimate disagreement” on issues that the DEI regime has declared sacred? Or was the declaration that science ought to be free of political and ideological influence nothing more than empty words?

According to Dr. J. Scott Turner, the National Association of Scholars’ new director of the Diversity in the Sciences Project, governmental involvement in science is always political, even when conducted in the name of “scientific integrity.” Dr. Turner elaborates on that idea in this week’s featured article:

The bottom line? No political actor “follows the science,” the present administration included. What other conclusion can one draw from the long-running grotesque theater of the absurd that has been the Biden administration’s “scientific” pandemic response?

I agree with the point that science is facing an integrity crisis, and it has been for a very long time. But let me say the quiet part out loud: the whole point of government support of scientific research is not to support science per se, but to harness science to political ends. The many pious declarations to the contrary that pepper the report are revealed as either idealistic naïveté, or diversions to direct attention from the sausage-making going on behind the scenes. I tend to the latter option: the many policy changes recommended in this voluminous report are to tighten government control over science, not to liberate it.

The White House Task Force’s 67-page report was aptly titled. Their intention isn’t to protect the practice of science—it’s to enforce the administration’s own flavor of Government Science. And that’s a different beast entirely.

Until next week.

CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’ weekly newsletter, written by Communications Associate Marina Ziemnick. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.

Image: Vlad Tchompalov, Public Domain

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