Ogmius Newsletter

Research Highlight

Misuse of Science

Last May a group of high-achieving undergraduates participated in a critical thinking course at the University of Colorado-Boulder titled "The Use, Misuse and Abuse of Science in Policy and Politics."  The goal of the course was to better understand recent debate and discussion about the role of science under the Bush Administration.  The class syllabus can be found here.

Attention had been focused on the Bush Administration because of a series of reports from the Union of Concerned Scientists and Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA).  Concern about the misuse of science is apparently bipartisan as the conservative-leaning Hoover Institution recently published a book about the misuse of science.

In our course we wanted to see if concern about the misuse of science had any basis, other than personal partisan preferences.  We considered each case discussed by the UCS and Waxman reports and the Hoover book and asked the following question: Does the data suggest a misuse of science and, if so, what exactly is that misuse?  After going through this exercise we developed four categories of misuse and two categories of political use that was not clearly misuse.  We then took these categories and explored the historical record to see if similar events occurred under the administrations of Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush.   The class findings are included in the following report:

Pielke, Jr., R. A. (ed.), 2004. Report on the Misuse of Science in the Administrations of George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) and William J. Clinton (1993-2001). By the Students in ENVS 4800, Maymester 2004, University of Colorado, June.

Roger Pielke, Jr.