The following video is extracted from the House Science, Space and Technology joint oversight and energy subcommittee hearing examining misconduct and intimidation of scientists by senior executives in DOE chain of command.
It features the opening statements from Dr. Sharlene Weatherwax, a plant microbiologist serving as the Director, Biology and Environmental Research for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and Dr. Noelle Metting, a radiation and cancer biology specialist who began managing the Low Dose Radiation Research Program in 2000.
The hearing was focused on determining decisions, actions and reasoning for events that the oversight committee believed began in October 2014. Those events resulted in terminating the low dose radiation research program and attempting to fire Dr. Metting from her government service position.
Dr. Weatherwax’s testimony expresses a clear professional interest in plant biology and plant genetic manipulation that can be used to create plant species that are better suited to high productivity as biofuels. She tells Congress that the Department of Energy chose to redirect the funds from the Low Dose Radiation Research Program (LDRRP) to fund projects determined to be higher priority within the Office of Biology and Environmental Research (BER).
It’s worth noting that the annual budget for the LDRRP never exceeded $25 million and that the total budget for BER is more than $600 million. It seems like there was a lot of management attention devoted to capturing a 3% increase in funding for programs that someone determined were a higher priority than developing an improved understanding of the health effects of low dose radiation.
The saga of the rise and fall of the LDRRP is still under development; this is just a teaser with more to come.