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Congressman’s probe intended to protect scientists from government intimidation

In the Sept. 12 editorial “Bullying on behalf of Big Oil,” The Boston Globe mischaracterized my concern with the climate change investigations launched by the Massachusetts and New York attorneys general. The attorneys general are seeking decades’ worth of communications from university researchers, nonprofit organizations, and individuals with whose research or opinions they disagree. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology wants to determine whether the actions by the attorneys general adversely affect federally funded scientific research.

According to the National Science Foundation, the private sector is by far the largest user of scientific research funds. If businesses believe that the research they fund will be mischaracterized by government officials and they will be wrongly accused of fraud, they will have a powerful incentive to cease funding that research. The same goes for nonprofit organizations, universities, and scientists. That is apparently the intent of the attorneys general — to stifle legitimate debate about the cause and impact of climate change.

The editorial also mischaracterizes the point of my investigation. My intention is not to “[interfere] with the work of elected state officials.” On the contrary, the committee, and I as chairman, have a clear need to protect scientists and researchers from government officials’ attempted intimidation. Scientists must be allowed to pursue research in accordance with scientific principles without fear of reprisal, harassment, or undue burden. They are guaranteed that right to freedom of speech under the US Constitution.


Representative Lamar Smith

The writer represents the 21st District of Texas in the House of Representatives.