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New scientific litmus test

No, this is not about testing pH. Robert L. Park, in the latest issue of What's New, says:

The Union of Concerned Scientists persists in accusing the Bush administration of manipulating science to further its political agenda. In a press release yesterday, they contend that nominees to scientific advisory panels have been questioned about whether they voted for Bush.

I looked at the document on the Union of Concerned Scientists website to which Park refers. Here is the relevant part (p. 28):

Dr. Claire Sterk

During her confirmation process for the Council of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Sterk reports she was subjected to repeated questioning about her political views in three separate calls from a White House staff member. Among the questions she was asked, and refused to answer, was whether she had voted for President Bush.

"I have nothing to hide," Dr. Sterk commented. "But I told the questioner that I did not see the connection between his line of questioning and my work on a scientific advisory council. And I refused to answer unless the questioner could tell me that I would have some kind of particular political policy role, which I knew I would not."110

Despite her refusal, however, Dr. Sterk states that the White House staffer continued trying to elicit an answer about her vote in the presidential election "for roughly 15 minutes." Dr. Sterk was asked many other overtly political questions that she refused to answer, such as whether she supported "faith" drug treatment programs. While Dr. Sterk was confirmed for a position on the NIH council, she says she believes that a high-ranking NIH official may well have intervened on behalf of her nomination. Nonetheless, she says she finds it deeply disturbing that the Bush administration would subject its nominees for a scientific advisory position to such intrusive, partisan political questions.

110This and the statements that follow come from an author interview with Claire Sterk, March 2004.

I certainly wouldn't like to be badgered like that for 15 minutes or more, especially if I really wanted the job.

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