WASHINGTON, DC—Members of a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel yesterday (July 21) challenged senior Bush administration officials over the propriety of asking the political affiliations and policy positions of scientists being considered for federal government advisory committees.
"Is it inappropriate to ask their party affiliation?" John E. Porter, NAS committee chairman, questioned government witnesses yesterday. "There is no specific prohibition against asking it," replied Robert Flaak, senior policy adviser in the General Service Administration, which oversees laws regarding federal advisory committees. "I see no reason why that would be important. [But] there are cases, in a policy-related committee advising the president, where perhaps it could be of interest."
Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Science Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards, told the NAS panel that political viewpoint questions are indeed appropriate because scientific advisory committees represent "the nexus between politics and science."
"Scientists should not consider...