In more politics over science disturbing news

I suppose I'm compiling these stories so that when I do teach, I have patently explicit examples of the entanglements of science and politics. I taught a writing course to freshmen where my students tended to find me a crazy liberal radical. Admittedly, my university is not known for its liberal hotbededness, a bit of a shock after my own undergraduate progressive college. But I like giving students transparent moments of why science is never immune from human biases. A number of my students really disagreed with my attempts to show them that science is as vulnerable to human tampering as any other discipline. I feel like I have to shore up news-based items to give them concrete examples of the limitations of science. And ultimately, I think it's possible to come back around and say that science has a lot to offer as a method of inquiry, but students usually need some sort of crisis of...faith....funny. No matter what I do to try to move away from this idea of conviction, of faith, I keep coming back to its intersection with scientific knowledge. One of my favorite scholars on this topic is Lorraine Daston, because she offers an historical perspective on the evolution of scientific thinking that I think is really indispensable.

I awoke this morning from a convoluted dream about induction versus deduction. This may be the nerdiest dream ever.

This is from the National Partnership for Women's daily newsletter, that used to be run by KaiserNetwork

ABORTION NEWS | Federally Funded Hopkins Database Restored To Accept Abortion-Related Searches After Being Restricted
[April 7, 2008]

Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health is once again allowing its federally funded reproductive health database Popline to accept searches containing the word "abortion" after such searches were restricted in February, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 4/5). Popline, which stands for population information online, is a free database funded by USAID. Popline provides more than 360,000 citations and abstracts of scientific articles, books, reports and unpublished reports on population, family planning and related issues, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Database officials in February intentionally programmed the database to ignore searches that contained the word "abortion" after USAID officials found two records that were related to abortion advocacy and did not meet the criteria for inclusion in the database. Database administrators removed the two records after being asked to do so by the USAID officials (Desmon, Baltimore Sun, 4/5). Administrators also programmed the word "abortion" to be ignored in searches in the same way that terms such as "a" and "the" are ignored (New York Times, 4/5). Abortion-related citations were not removed from the database but were more difficult to find, Rachel Walden, a Nashville-based biomedical librarian, said.

According to the Sun, Popline restored "abortion" as a search term after women's health advocates and librarians "flooded" online blogs and e-mail boxes at Hopkins with complaints of censorship. Gloria Won, a librarian at the University of California-San Francisco, sent an e-mail to Popline administrator Debra Dickson on March 31 after she noticed that an abortion-related search returned fewer citations than the same search returned in January (Baltimore Sun, 4/5). Dickson responded that Popline administrators "made all abortion terms stop words," adding, "As a federally funded project, we decided this was best for now." Dickson suggested Won use search terms such as "fertility control, postconception" or "pregnancy, unwanted" instead of terms containing the word "abortion."

Bloomberg Dean Michael Klag learned of the restrictions on Friday after Won reported her experience on an electronic mailing list and librarians protested the restriction. After learning of the restriction, Klag instructed database administrators to "restore 'abortion' as a search term immediately." Klag said he "could not disagree more strongly" with the decision to restrict the word "abortion." He added that he plans to launch an inquiry to "determine" why database administrators decided to restrict the term (New York Times, 4/5).


Wayne Shields, president and CEO of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, said the restriction could have potentially jeopardized patient care because it prevented doctors and women from accessing scientific information about abortion. Shields said the decision was "clearly a decision driven by ideology and not based on the medical or scientific needs of the reproductive health professional community the database exists to serve" (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/5).

Loriene Roy, president of the American Library Association, lauded Klag's quick action on Friday but added that she is "dismayed" the restriction had occurred. Roy said the restriction denied "researchers, students and individuals on all sides of the issue access to accurate scientific information." USAID officials were unavailable for comment, the Sun reports (Baltimore Sun, 4/5).

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