In The News
With federal officials’ acknowledgment that nearly an entire unit of FBI forensic examiners overstated testimony about hair matches for decades, legal analysts say the question now is how courts and prosecutors will respond to criminal convictions that may have relied on such evidence.
The top Democrats on three committees in the U.S. House of Representatives—all women—are concerned that “gender bias is inhibiting women and girls” from pursuing careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. So last year they asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to ask the six leading federal research agencies for data on their applicant pools. The two agencies that fund the largest amount of basic research—the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF)—keep careful records as part of an ongoing effort to monitor whether agency officials and grant reviewers are discriminating against women and minority scientists.
A top Democrat this week will ask President Obama to fire the Commerce Department’s inspector general after a congressional probe uncovered a pattern of alleged misconduct, including retaliation against whistleblowers and the hiring of a suspected girlfriend. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Tex.), the ranking Democrat on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, called for Todd Zinser’s ouster during floor remarks Thursday. In a statement for the Congressional Record, Johnson laid out a long string of evidence suggesting that Zinser created a toxic work environment and engaged in the types of activities he is supposed to guard against. She plans to formally ask Obama early this week to remove the inspector general, according to her office.
Unfortunately, we were not surprised by The Post’s July 30 front-page article “Review finds two decades of forensic errors by FBI.” In 2009, the National Research Council reported that a number of forensic disciplines “have yet to establish either the validity of their approach or the accuracy of their conclusions.” As The Post reported, unscientific forensic practices have been used to send people to prison and, in some cases, death row. Wrongful convictions have marred the reputation of our justice system and allowed dangerous criminals to go free.
The top watchdog responsible for ferreting out wrongdoing at the Commerce Department is the subject of a broad congressional probe, with lawmakers from both parties alleging a pattern of behavior that “casts doubt” on his “reliability, veracity, trustworthiness, and ethical conduct.”
Yesterday, the Democrats struck back. Knowing that they couldn’t stop the Republican majority on the U.S. House of Representatives science committee from passing legislation to alter the activities of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in ways they oppose, members of the minority party instead offered more than a dozen amendments designed to highlight what they see as the bill’s serious flaws.
The House Science, Space and Technology Committee is about to mark up legislation — the FIRST Act — to reauthorize a number of agencies and programs, including the National Science Foundation, charged with enabling the United States to uphold a position of world leadership in research and education... But it is marred by two issues that will limit its effectiveness in producing future discoveries and the understanding to make use of them.
Congress’s unprecedented effort to cap spending on specific scientific research projects has created a stir that has reached as high as the White House.The FIRST Act seeks greater accountability from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the way it spends its $7-billion annual budget—a reasonable goal that few have argued against. The controversy is over the less-than-scientific approach that FIRST would take to decide which projects get funded.
The Obama administration and the scientific community at large are expressing serious alarm at a House Republican bill that they argue would dramatically undermine way research is conducted in America.
Pending legislation to alter the grantmaking process at the National Science Foundation (NSF) “would have an extraordinarily unfortunate effect” on the $7 billion research agency, presidential science adviser John Holdren said.