Biases can also lead to distortion of Science at the hands of scientists themselves. For example, non-financial forms of conflict of interest include “white hat bias” (distortion of information for what is perceived as righteous ends), bias toward one’s own work, bias stemming from personal or institutional relationships, and bias stemming from religious or political beliefs.
Suppression of research data not only impacts global discourse, but has severe free speech implications. A recent example of such suppression is being called, “climategate”, and involves the leak of over 1000 emails and files from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit in England in late 2009. The email messages were mainly attributed to American and British climate researchers. Although a number of reports have now cleared these sceintists of any malpractice, some contended that the leaked emails and documents showed that the “climate scientists conspired to overstate the case for a human influence on climate change.” According to the New York Times, the emails included “discussions of scientific data and whether it should be released, exchanges about how best to combat the arguments of skeptics, and casual comments — in some cases derisive — about specific people known for their skeptical views.” Climate change skeptics charged that the hacked emails proved that there was an effort to withhold unfavorable data from the public. The accused scientists asserted that several of the quoted comments were taken out of context and didn’t represent anything sinister.
For more information (generally), see:
For an article on the contempt for critics in the global warming science community and its effect on openness and debate in science, see:
E-Mail Fracas Shows Peril of Trying to Spin Science
The climategate scandal provoked several responses, including those from members of Congress. Congressional Republicans sent letters to the inspectors general of several agencies asking them to obtain records related to the emails. Similarly they also called on the Obama administration to halt any efforts aimed at battling climate change until the climategate controversy has been investigated. They also sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, in which they asked that “a pending move to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act be halted, along with plans to limit emissions from vehicles, power plants and other sources, ‘until the agency can demonstrate the science underlying these regulatory decisions has not been compromised.’” Some commentators believe this won’t have much effect on pending legislation. Regardless of the outcome, politicizing the issue – categorizing sides of the issue as liberal or conservative – only restricts dialogue to party lines and hinders full conversation.
For more information about GOP reaction, see:
For an op-ed about “climategate’s” impact of the suppression of dissent in science, see"Climategate: Science Is Dying," an opinion piece which appeared in the Los Angeles Times discussed the blurring of the boundary between science and politics. The authors argue that “the invaluable role science should play in informing policy and politics will be irrevocably undermined, as citizens come to see science as nothing more than a tool for partisans of all stripes.”