March 9th. 2006
Sent to but not published in the New Yorker

There are two things wrong with John Marburger's view of the relation between Science and Government (Political Science, New Yorker, March 13th, 2006).

First he argues that when presenting conference papers scientists are not just reporting data, they are also "putting forward a point of view that should reflect U.S. policy." He has got things backwards. In sensitive areas like AIDS policy, surely governmemnt policy should reflect the data rather than some ideological view that the administration holds.

He also says that "This administration is more management-oriented than others." That has to be joke. Perhaps the administration adheres to an outdated "command and control" view of how managers operate, but effective managers do not work like that any more. Real managers thrive on information to underpin their decisions. We only have to look at the range of information disasters that have beset this administration to conclude that it has no idea about how to ensure that current and accurate data (on Iraq, on hurricanes, and on port security) gets to the decision makers. There is no more managerially inept administration in living memory.

The implications of the administration's attitudes to science are and will undercut our ability to sustain the incredible scientific advances of the last century.