The benefits to society of robust and unencumbered scientific research and debate are incalculable, especially considering that government-sponsored research is often the primary means to developing sound public policy. While censorship in the fields of art and politics has traditionally garnered the preponderance of public attention, the 21st Century have brought increased scrutiny of First Amendment concerns in the area of scientific research.
Nationally, science has grown politicized. The federal government, motivated by a desire to sustain a specific political agenda, has frequently suppressed and/or distorted scientific reports. This incursion on the scientific community has impinged on a wide range of topics and research, including the environment, climate change, sex and health education, stem cell research, missile defense, energy sources and evolution. These attacks occur on both the state and federal level.
What an attack on science looks like:
-introducing a “controversy” where no scientific controversy actually exists by mandating equal attention and resources for quasi-theories containing little to no support in the scientific community;
–suppressing scientific reports by delaying their release or failing to make them available to the public;
-removing otherwise qualified scientists from important agency and panel positions by virtue of their disagreement with the current administration’s politics or because their research yielded results that did not favor the administration’s policy;
-enacting legislation that restricts the areas of inquiry an agency may permissibly study;
-distorting current scientific research by intentionally misrepresenting its findings.
These acts represent an erosion of our constitutional rights to freedom of speech, inquiry and exchange of ideas. They create a “chilling effect” for scientists, textbook and other publishers who fear repercussions for producing data or advocating positions that are inconsistent with current political agendas or powerful corporate interests.
NCAC opposes practices that inhibit the free exchange of ideas.
For resources and reports on specific censorship incidents, visit the Science archive.
To report an incident, contact NCAC.
Note: As national concern over the “politicization” of science escalated during the Bush Administration, NCAC founded “the Knowledge Project” in 2005. The project has since been folded into general NCAC programming.
The Knowledge Project focused on the subtle, difficult and intransigent problems of government-sanctioned corporatization and privatization of vital scientific information, including information developed with federal funding and/or kept from the public under strained interpretations of federal law.