Monday, February 06, 2006

Data Quality

One of the powerful tools of science abuse invented by Republicans is the Data Quality Act, an amendment passed by Gingrich era Republicans which requires federal agencies to:
ensur[e] and maximiz[e] the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by Federal agencies
Using this harmless looking text, industry has challenged various regulations by insisting that that the information supporting a conclusion fails to meet arbitrarily strict standards. For instance, industry attempted to rewrite various climate change assessments by challenging the use of climate models. Elsewhere, regulation of carcinogens has been held up by bogus, industry funded research.

In 2002-2003, the President, Vice-President and various other officials and agencies made some specific statements about Iraq, al Qaeda, and WMD. Many of those statements were false. When they were not outright false, they certainly did not "maximiz[e] the quality, objectivity, utility and integrity of information."

If the Big Bang, backed by extensive evidence from various types of research, can be nixed by a 24-year-old political hack, and if bogus studies by industry could hold up regulating carcinogens and other toxins, surely someone should have been able to use the DQA to tie the DoD in knots until the truth came out.

Troll-repellent: No, I'm not advocating tying national security decisions in absurd red-tape. I'd settle for not allowing political manipulation in the process of expert analysis and investigation in science or intelligence gathering.

The War on Science overlaps broadly with an ongoing war on expertise. The DQA values the volume of paper over the expertise of the people reading and writing the documents. Our government's approach to intelligence before the war was equally dismissive of experts. The inspectors on the ground kept saying there was no WMD program. Defectors who didn't get shepherded by Chalabi kept saying the WMD programs were shut down. But Dick Cheney breathed down analysts' necks, and got reports that said what he wanted, and we went to war based on these "coerced" statements.