The House committee that oversees federal funding for science is known currently for its hostility to a lot of federal funding for science.
The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Twitter feed is a bit more tolerant. It warmly embraces meteorology and space exploration, but gives the cold shoulder to climate science and the Environmental Protection Agency, lending its tweets a reliably bipolar tone.
Last week, @HouseScience had a complete meltdown. It tweeted a nonsensical climate story published on the far-right Breitbart News site, which picked up much of its article from the Daily Mail. The tweet and stories were roundly mocked by many scientists and commentators.
The committee, which is tasked with overseeing federal funding for NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the National Weather Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, is controlled by Republicans, the majority party in the House.
The committee has tweeted a Breitbart story before. On September 8, @HouseScience published an essay from Breitbart about research on the carbon emitted in the production and burning of corn ethanol. The author of that piece is affiliated with an organization reportedly funded by gas and oil companies.
That earlier Breitbart tweet suggests that the committee’s December 1 tweet was unrelated to President-elect Donald Trump’s recent appointment of Stephen K. Bannon, former Breitbart News executive chairman, as an aide de campe.
With the exception of this recent pair of tweets, the committee’s Twitter feed has steered clear of Breitbart News stories in the past three months. The feed’s recent media diet, however, instills little confidence in the committee’s commitment to evidence-based science and reporting.
The media site tweeted most frequently during this period by @HouseScience is The Washington Examiner, the most influential conservative newspaper in nation’s capital. Two recent tweets to Examiner stories in the @HouseScience feed: “Judge says Democratic AG’s Exxon probe in ‘bad faith’” and “GOP announces ‘unprecedented’ contempt resolution for firm that helped Clinton manage her secret server.”
The feed’s second most frequently tweeted site in this period is The Daily Caller, which was started by libertarian conservative Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel, a former advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney.
Two recent tweets by @HouseScience that link to Daily Caller stories include: “No one can take POTUS’ revisionist history of his accomplishments in space seriously” and “Republicans demand PROOF from Obama that global warming is a national security threat.”
Other media sites favored on the feed are Space.com, Space News, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, The Hill, the Washington Times, GeekWire, USA Today, FoxNews, Politico, Nature and E&E News. (Disclosure: I have worked in the past for Space.com and the Nature Publishing Group.)
Setting aside the anti-climate science and anti-alternative energy bias in the stories tweeted, one could credit the committee’s feed for linking at times to journalism produced by evidence-based media outlets, that is, outlets that don’t routinely publish incendiary content and falsehoods.
But in journalism, there’s no credit for nearly or intermittently accurate information and reporting. The same goes for science.
Is it unreasonable to expect our Congressional science committee to tweet news that is accurate?