NCAC is launching The Knowledge Project, a new program examining the clash between First Amendment principles of free expression and government suppression or distortion of scientific information.
Announcing the new initiative, Executive Director Joan E. Bertin said: “This project will call attention to the erosion of our country’s knowledge base and the rise of anti-intellectualism as a national credo. Beyond the ‘dumbing down’ of education and culture, we are also witnessing a wholesale loss of respect for the power of rational analysis based on scientific research and information. The Knowledge Project
seeks to raise awareness of this disturbing trend and to document the ways in which government suppression of information violates the First Amendment. Politicians of both parties have attempted to manage information,” Bertin said, "although the problem has now reached crisis proportions. When government acts to cut off the free flow of information, or manipulate and distort information, it endangers the ‘marketplace of ideas’ and threatens not only our constitutional rights to freedom of speech, thought and inquiry, but also the decision and policy-making processes that depend on reliable and valid information and knowledge.”
The Knowledge Project will address attempts to delete information from official reports, for example: about the scientific consensus on global warming, the environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing, the health risks of escalating levels of lead in the environment, and the efficacy of condoms in protecting against AIDS. Dozens of such examples abound (see Censorship News 91) and have raised alarm among prominent scientists, including 49 Nobel laureates, and among legislators and commentators. The scientists, including some who have served previous Republican administrations, charge that the Bush administration has distorted science to promote political ends.
Through the Knowledge Project, NCAC will develop analyses and arguments about the First Amendment implications of government actions that suppress research findings and scientific collaboration and will work with members of the scientific community to inform the public about the threat this activity poses to First Amendment freedoms and public policy. In short, NCAC will incorporate Constitutional law and principles into the debate, and expand the audience of people informed about the issue.
A grant from the Leon Levy Foundation enables NCAC to launch the project this fall.