Spurious investigation of UVA scientist sends a chilling message (2010)
In May 2010, Union of concerned Scientists (UCS) reported that the University of Virginia was calling for an end to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's investigation of internationally respected climate scientist Michael Mann. Cuccinelli has a reputation as a hero among conservative tea party activists, and provided no evidence of wrongdoing to support his investigation.
Although Cuccinelli claimed that he is not “targeting scientific conclusions,” some have noted the similarities between this investigation and tactics used in the past by tobacco companies to discredit findings that showed the negative health effects of smoking. A UCS statement has declared that "[s]cientists must be able to do their work free from political intimidation. Many of our nation's best scientific discoveries have happened when scientists took risks. Attorney General Cuccinelli's subpoena stifles the spirit of innovation that drives economic growth.”
Federal government repeatedly denies requests to study benefits of marijuana use (2010)
The federal government continues to discourage research into medicinal uses of smoked marijuana, according to a January 2010 article in the New York Times. Although the Obama administration has ended the Bush era policy of raiding dispensers of medical marijuana, it has continued to allow the denial of requests to study marijuana. There is only one federally approved marijuana plantation and anyone who wishes to investigate marijuana must apply to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and get permission from three separate entities – a special Public Health Service panel, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
According to the article, a DEA administrative law judge found that federal officials have repeatedly denied or failed to act on marijuana research requests in a timely manner. This almost total refusal to acknowledge or investigate positive medicinal uses of smoking marijuana is in direct conflict with the actions of individual states. As of January, fourteen states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, mainly to relieve pain from diseases such as cancer, HIV and AIDS, as well as Lou Gehrig’s disease. By refusing to allow scientists to even investigate these uses, the federal government is censoring a whole category of scientific research – not allowing any further thought, analysis or study on this topic.
University of Nebraska considers retaining Bush-era limits on stem cell research (2009)
In March 2009, President Obama signed an executive order that lifted the Bush Administration’s restrictions on stem cell researchand ordered the NIH to develop guidelines to assist in deciding which lines could be ethically used. Since then the NIH has approved several new lines of human embryonic stem cells that were previously not eligible for federally funded experiments. Instead of eagerly opting for more research funds on broader subject matter, the University of Nebraska is considering restricting its experimentsto only those lines approved under the Bush Administration. By doing so, according to the New York Times, the University would become the first state institution in the country to impose limits on stem cell research that go further than state and federal laws.
For an article on the effects of Bush-era stem cell policy on scientific research and information, see 'Study confirms limits on stem cell research.'
By not including the therapeutic cloning of stem cells, some believe Obama’s executive order did not go far enough. The President has allowed federal funding to go toward research on stem cell lines created from surplus fertility clinic embryos, but not for stem cell lines created in the lab. For an opinion piece on Obama’s decision and its ramifications on scientific research and information, see:
'Obama's bad stem cell compromise'
'No stem cell left behind'
President Obama intended to remove the science of stem cell research from the politics of it with his elimination of the Bush-era ban on funding. No longer would there be a “false choice between sound science and moral values,” he said. However, according to a piece from Salon.com, Obama’s decision may have not only failed to remove politics from the science, but may have invigorated the political ideology on both sides and created more rhetoric around the issue. This sort of politicization of science has severe implications for our national dialogue. The issue is reduced to partisan media bites and attention is focused not on research and data but on sensational headlines.