Inhofe Asks NSF Director to Warp Time: So What Else is New?

I will say this for US Sen. James Inhofe (R-Exxon): his relentlessly ideological view of science isolates him from the world, but at least that isolation is so robust and seamless that there’s not much risk of reality intruding and causing him to frighten the horses by saying something rational. Even his moments of most spectacular looniness, such as calling Michael Crichton as an expert witness to a Senate hearing, are entirely at home in the comfortable personal history he has woven as the dumbest man in the Senate.
So it is with his recent request that the director of the National Science Foundation provide detailed information on employees and contractors at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

Rep. Mark Udall put it diplomatically:

[H]is request for the names of NCAR and UCAR employees and a list of their research projects raises the question whether this is about the conclusions these scientists have reached or whether this is an attempt to influence the outcome of their research.

No kidding. The letter is extraordinary in its scope and detail, making it clear that its intent is to harass and threaten. It asks for:

  • A basic organization chart for NCAR and UCAR with names and titles of office directors,
  • A list of all NCAR and UCAR staff, their job title, location, and a brief description of their duties and responsibilities.
  • A list of all NCAR and UCAR employees working at, or who are under contract with, non-NSF Federal agencies and departments or Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s), their job title, salary, and length of time on this assignment. Please provide this information for a period of time covering the past 3 years.
  • Any and all rules, policies, regulations, manuals, internal memoranda, and any other documents that govern NCAR and UCAR employees working at or who are under contract with non-NSF Federal agencies and departments or NGOs.

A list of research projects funded for the last 3 years broken out by institutions and amount of funding by fiscal year.

The letter finishes with a deadline:

Thank you for your prompt consideration of this request. I look forward to receiving your response by Monday, February 13, 2006.

I hope NSF got cracking on that one right away. The letter was dated February 24, 2006.

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