Waxman: U.S. Imposes New Limits on Scientists

Allen L. Barker alb at datafilter.com
Sun Jun 27 03:49:27 EST 2004

Waxman: U.S. Imposes New Limits on Scientists
Published: June 25, 2004
Filed at 0:31 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government is making it harder for
scientists to speak to their global colleagues and restricting who
can attend an upcoming major AIDS conference, a congressman charged
on Thursday.

Rep. Henry Waxman said he has a letter showing that the Health and
Human Services Department has imposed new limits on who may speak
to the World Health Organization.

Under the new policy, WHO must ask HHS for permission to speak to
scientists and must allow HHS to choose who will respond.

``This policy is unprecedented. For the first time political
appointees will routinely be able to keep the top experts in their
field from responding to WHO requests for guidance on international
health issues,'' the California Democrat wrote in a letter to HHS
Secretary Tommy Thompson.

``This is a raw attempt to exert political control over scientists
and scientific evidence in the area of international health,''
Waxman wrote.

``Under the new policy the administration will be able to refuse
to provide any experts whenever it wishes to stall international
progress on controversial topics.''

An HHS spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Waxman also complained that HHS had cut back a list of scientists
planning to attend the International AIDS Society conference in
Bangkok, Thailand, next month. The conference is considered the
premiere meeting for AIDS experts.

Waxman said that 40 presentations scheduled for the conference were
withdrawn after HHS decided that only 50 U.S. scientists could

``The scientific community was outraged by this pullback,'' he

``I ask you to rescind this ill-advised policy until it can be
adequately reviewed and justified,'' Waxman wrote of the
restrictions on WHO requests.

He also urged Thompson to review his decision on the Bangkok

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