Wednesday, February 08, 2006

NASA and the Truth: a Morality Tale

You may have heard of James Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The New York Times reported last week that the powers that be at NASA were trying to keep him from speaking out on climate change:
The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.
The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists.
Odds are you hadn't heard of George Deutsch, until you picked up the Times this morning:
George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters' access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word "theory" at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.
Mr. Deutsch, 24, was offered a job as a writer and editor in NASA's public affairs office in Washington last year after working on President Bush's re-election campaign and inaugural committee, according to his résumé. No one has disputed those parts of the document.
The part that is disputed is his claim to have earned a BA in journalism from Texas A&M University. Dr. Hansen, by the way, earned his BA, MS and PhD from the University of Iowa, all well before Mr. Deutsch was born. You can access his recent publications via his bio.
Likewise, you probably haven't heard of Nick Anthis unless you read the same article in the Times this morning. Mr. Anthis, a Rhodes scholar studying biochemistry at Oxford, started his blog The Scientific Activist exactly four weeks ago. Mr. Anthis, who did graduate from Texas A&M last year, (Oxford being more careful about these things than NASA) discovered what NASA didn't bother to check: Mr. Deutsch didn't graduate.
Dr. Hansen doesn't see Mr. Deutsch's bogus resume as the big issue:
Yesterday, Dr. Hansen said that the questions about Mr. Deutsch's credentials were important, but were a distraction from the broader issue of political control of scientific information.
"He's only a bit player," Dr. Hansen said of Mr. Deutsch. "The problem is much broader and much deeper and it goes across agencies. That's what I'm really concerned about."
Mr. Anthis agrees:
Hansen is really on to something here, and instead of the story being about a 24-year-old lying, it should be about this: how did this guy, who already had dubious qualifications, make it into NASA with such an obvious lie on his resume?


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