Censoring science (updated already!)

Normally I like to use the lab “News” posts for fun or good-news stories, but it is also important to highlight bad news or cautionary tales.

Here is a very serious story that is just breaking at the moment. Dr Jennifer Bowen from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, has been asked by the US Department of Energy to remove words such as “climate change” from a proposal abstract – Dr Bowen bravely posted a screen-shot of the email (below, and see also here).

Unsurprisingly this story has been picked up by Nature, Science, and other media outlets – I read the story first on the Observer website. The Nature article reports that at least one other applicant to the same granting call has also been asked to change the wording of their project proposal.

**UPDATE** David Walsh at Concordia has posted a very similar email, again asking for removal of the words “global warming”. That makes three so far…

This is the US, not North Korea or China. And what could happen there, could happen here in the UK. We need to be strong but even more so we need to be awake to threats such as this. Think about what is being asked here. I agree wholeheartedly with Michael Mann (famous Pennsylvania State University climate scientist) who tweeted.”Hey American Scientists. This should send a chill down your spine.” It should also send a chill down all our spines.

Because of this, I find I have to strongly disagree with the statement that Jennifer Bowen’s co-applicant Jonathan Sanderman is reported by Nature to have made in response:

Sanderman also lamented the fact that scientists are being forced to change the way they talk about their work. “But if that’s what it takes to keep science going for a couple of years, we will I guess play along,” he adds.

In fact, I’m afraid that statement disgusts me.

We should not play along. I will not play along.

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