This is an email that I received today from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dear Wise,

Later today or tomorrow, the United States Senate will vote on an amendment to the bill that funds the Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education Departments to prevent them from using political litmus tests for federal science advisory committee members. The amendment #2228, offered by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), will also prevent the three departments from disseminating scientific information that is deliberately false or misleading.

Please call your Senators today to express your support for the Durbin amendment #2228 to prevent these departments from using political litmus tests to select federal advisory committee members:

Senator Lautenberg
(202) 224-3224

Senator Corzine
(202) 224-4744

Tell the person who answers the phone that you are a constituent and a scientist and wish to speak with the Senator's health staff person. Identify yourself to the health staff member and tell him or her that you are deeply concerned about political interference in science.

If and when amendment #2228 is voted on, we will post the results here. Otherwise, you should assume that phone calls are still needed.

We already succeeded in passing legislation this summer in the House of Representatives banning political litmus tests for advisory committees in these departments. If the Senate amendment passes as well, there’s a significant chance that this may become law--scoring a major victory for scientific integrity.

Why This Legislation is Important
We've heard a number of stories over the past several years about federal science advisory committee nominees being selected or rejected based on their voting record or support for a particular candidate, not based on their scientific expertise. Our elected officials should depend on scientific advice from our nation’s best scientists, regardless of political affiliation, when making decisions that affect our nation’s health, safety, and environment.

The National Academy of Sciences came out strongly in November 2004 against the use of political litmus tests. "It is no more appropriate to ask [science and technology] experts to provide nonrelevant information--such as voting record, political-party affiliation, or position on particular policies--than to ask them other personal and immaterial information, such as hair color or height. This type of information has no relevance in discussions related to [science and technology]."

Please call as soon as possible--amendment #2228 will be voted on later today or tomorrow.

Senator Frank
(202) 224-3224

Senator Corzine
(202) 224-4744

More background information:
The National Academy of Sciences report

Examples of political vetting of advisory committee candidates

Thanks for helping UCS protect government science.

Sincerely,

Lexi Shultz
Washington Representative for Scientific Integrity

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