The article identifies these individuals and further discusses the process of “screening” whereby potential study section members were quizzed as to their political opinions prior to appointment – or not. These activities strike at the heart of scientific independence. The concern would not be that great if this was an isolated incident, but that is not the case (Rosenthal, Berndt, Donohue, Frank,
& Epstein, 2002). There isnowmounting evidence of systematic attempts to insinuate political opinion into scientific deliberation.
As one might imagine, this has become an extremely controversial issue, with allegations and counteraccusations (see Weiss, 2003). However, when prestigious scientific journals such as Science and the New England Journal of Medicine express significant concern, one sees the HF/E issue as only one among many threats to the impartiality of scientific information. The editors of The Lancet have also warned against the “growing evidence of explicit vetting
of appointees to influential [scientific] panels on the basis of their political or religious opinions.”
Our concern is with the precedent that such actions sets. If these trends are allowed to continue, it is clear that science in this country will not be influenced by appropriate evaluations that are consistent with the scientific process but, rather, will evolve to become an appendage to the opinion of whatever political faction temporarily holds sway. When political pressure infiltrates the peer review process by excluding otherwise qualified scientists because of their political views, by “stacking the deck” with only those scientists who support
the current administration’s political agenda, the scientific process becomes contaminated. Such single-sided bias in the selection of scientific juries inhibits the greater good of the pursuit of knowledge and suppresses scientific inquiry in certain areas by making political agendas part of the scientific review.