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NASA head pledges to prevent stifling of scientific openness


WASHINGTON -- NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin said yesterday that an agency-wide effort is under way to make sure political appointees are not stifling scientific openness.

Testifying at a hearing of the House Science Committee, Griffin heard lawmakers from both parties ask the space agency to guarantee "free and open inquiry."

The debate began three weeks ago after NASA climatologist James Hansen accused a political appointee in the office of public affairs with muzzling his views on global warming because they conflicted with those of the Bush administration. Career public affairs officers in the agency have since charged that interviews were denied to news organizations deemed too "liberal" and pressure was applied to hold down the number of news releases on earth science.

Griffin said NASA was soliciting feedback from across the agency to find people who "have a gripe." At the same time, a team of scientists and public affairs officers is reviewing current policies.

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