25 August 2010

Equal-Access Science ~ Deepwater Data Blackout

Professor Linda Hooper-Bui, an ecosystems biologist, opines in the NYTimes about A Gulf Science Blackout, the despicable prevention of open, independent, and equal-access research playing out right now in the aftermath of the grossly incompetent British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill Disaster...
"Although we are all doing needed research, we’re not receiving equal money or access to the affected sites. Those working for BP or the federal government’s Natural Resource Damage Assessment program are being given the bulk of the resources, while independent researchers are shoved aside. The problem is that researchers for BP and the government are being kept quiet, and their data is unavailable to the rest of the community. When damages to the gulf are assessed in court or Congress, there might not be enough objective data to make a fair judgment. Transparency is vital to successful science: researchers must subject their proposals to the scrutiny of colleagues, and publications require peer review. When it comes to field research, scientists need equal access to the same sites to test competing hypotheses. But BP, which controls access to the Deepwater Horizon site and vast stretches of the water around it, seems unconcerned about those principles. Some suspect that the oil company is focusing its research on gathering material to support its legal case; we can’t know for sure, though, because researchers who get money from BP must sign strict three-year confidentiality agreements. In any case, whatever research comes out of BP’s efforts will be tainted by secrecy."
Come on. Our modern civilization depends on objective science, intellectual freedom, and systemic competence. We need to move beyond backwards, dictatorial, and medieval methods.

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