Keep the state out of science findings says STA

Science and Technology Australia warns against attempts “to discredit the integrity of scientists”

What’s going on: The National Party has adopted as policy establishing an “independent science quality assurance agency,” to “provide quality assurance and verification of scientific papers which are used to influence, formulate or determine public policy,” (CMM Monday).

Which perplexes the science establishment: Science and Technology Australia’s Emma Johnston and Kylie Walker respond, “we are perplexed by recent attempts to discredit the integrity of scientists.”

“The work of scientists is arguably subjected to a greater rigour and scrutiny than any other professional group. Grant funding cannot be obtained without passing both a test of independent experts and political ‘national interest’ tests. Results cannot be published and promotion cannot be achieved without convincing an independent group of experts from around the world that the discovery you have made or the theory you have proven is as close to correct as it is possible to be. And on the rare occasion that flawed findings make it through all those hoops and checks, there is no cover-up. Retractions are published, results are withdrawn – the word is spread.”

Where this came from: The Nats policy sponsor is George Christensen, whose federal seat looks east to the Great Barrier Reef and west to coal mines. “Farmers, coal miners, business and industry across this nation are being railroaded by policies that have been implemented because scientific research papers said there was some problem that needed fixing. Many of those last scientific papers have never been tested and their conclusions may be wrong,” he posted to Facebook, Saturday.

He’s not alone. Senator Susan McDonald (Nats, Queensland) wants the Senate rural and regional references committee to inquire into, “the existing evidence base on the impact of farm water runoff on the health of the Great Barrier Reef and catchment areas” and “proposed changes to regulations that would impact on farm productivity and the potential benefits of such proposed regulations.”

Where STA fears it could go: “Does Australia really want a culture in which our strongest testers of the truth and our best chance of creating solutions to existential challenges are afraid to speak up? Where scientists working for national scientific institutions are publicly harassed after presenting their findings,?” STA asks.



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