Scientists and a Republican member of Congress are protesting other members' attempts to investigate three researchers who have produced climate data that support global warming, arguing the investigation is designed to intimidate scientists who don't generate politically favorable data.
In 1998, Michael Mann of the University of Virginia, Raymond Bradley of the University of Massachusetts, and Malcolm Hughes of the University of Arizona published a paper in
Last month, Mann, Bradley, and Hughes received a letter from US Congressmen Joe Barton, chair of the House Committee of Energy and Commerce, and Ed Whitfield, chair of the subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, with a two-page list of requests for material to support their conclusions, such as all financial support for their research, including–but not limited to–honoraria and financial awards.
Instead, by "overburdening" him and his colleagues with requests, the congressmen are trying to disrupt their work, Bradley noted. "I've been working for 30 years. If they think I'm going to sit down and go through everything I've done, it's impossible. It would shut me down, which is what they want."
Through a spokesperson, Barton told
"When studies were criticized and results seemed hard to replicate by other researchers, asking why seemed like a modest but necessary step," Barton said. "This is not the first time this committee has asked for this type of information, and it won't be the last."
However, some experts noted that this is the first time they have seen individual congressmen question individual scientists. "I have never seen anything quite as egregious as this," Linda Rosenstock, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health from 1994 through 2000, told
In protest, both the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the National Academies of Science (NAS) have written letters to Congressman Barton. Alan Leshner, the CEO of AAAS and executive publisher of
Even the Republican party is divided on this issue. On July 14, Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), chair of the House Committee on Science, called the investigation "misguided and illegitimate" in a letter to Barton. "The only conceivable explanation for the investigation is to attempt to intimidate," Boehlert notes, which sets a "chilling" precedent.
And on July 15, twenty scientists voiced their own protests against Barton's investigation, noting that there is debate about climate change, but Mann et al.'s work constitutes "only one item among literally thousands of pieces of evidence that have contributed to the present consensus on the serious nature of climate change." Alan Robock, distinguished professor of environmental science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, told
Bradley said that he has responded by sending his own letter to Barton, which included his CV, archives for data used in his research, and criticisms of the work of McIntyre and McKitrick. Mann and Hughes have also submitted responses.
Bradley added that he was "surprised" and "depressed" to receive the letter, and warned that this development does not bode well for scientists who receive federal support or work in controversial areas such as evolution or stem cell research. "This is just the tip of the iceberg," he warned.