News: News Archives
AAAS Calls on Government to Adhere
to "Fair Balance" Rules in Choosing Advisors
The world's largest general scientific organization today urged the U.S. federal government to ensure a "fair balance" of viewpoints when assembling committees to address key scientific, technical and medical matters.
"The selection, removal or replacement of advisory committee members, or the disbanding of advisory committees, based on criteria extraneous either to the scientific, technical or medical issues … compromises the integrity of the process of receiving advice and is inappropriate," the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) said in a resolution approved by its Board of Directors and its Council.
The Federal Advisory Act, passed in 1972, requires committees to be "balanced in terms of points of view represented," the AAAS resolution noted. The goal, AAAS added, is to achieve a balance of competence, disciplinary focus and political and/or institutional allegiances.
"We recognize that policy rarely is made on the basis of facts alone," said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer for AAAS and executive publisher of its journal, Science. "But, the best public policymaking occurs only after all points of view are heard. Therefore the scientific community endorses the principle of full inclusion and balance of perspective on all advisory groups."
The AAAS resolution was prepared in response to anecdotal reports of individual committee members being "litmus tested," or committees suddenly being restructured without clear explanations, Leshner said. "The plural of 'anecdote' is not 'evidence,'" Leshner emphasized. "Moreover, it is not the intent or role of AAAS to point fingers. But, we felt that it would be useful at this time to reiterate the importance of getting the full range and highest quality scientific advice possible."
AAAS thus "calls on the federal government to ensure that the process of obtaining scientific, technical and medical advice follows the letter and spirit of the Federal Advisory Committee Act and accords with democratic principles of governance," the resolution stated.
For more information, read AAAS resolution.
5 March 2003