by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A senior White House official barred from publishing scientific studies or working with the National Academy of Sciences led the federal government’s embrace of “indigenous knowledge.”
In August 2022, the National Academy of Sciences sanctioned Jane Lubchenco, a top White House science adviser, for editing a paper coauthored by her brother-in-law, which was found to include faulty data. The academy—considered the most prestigious scientific organization in the country—determined both the conflict of interest and the approval of inaccurate research to be major ethical violations. The academy retracted the paper and barred Lubchenco from publishing any paper through the organization for five years.
That has not stopped Lubchenco, who did not deny the allegations of misconduct, from exerting influence on national science policy. As deputy director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the environmental scientist oversees a number of federal initiatives, including the push to elevate Native American folk traditions to the level of scientific fact.
Emails obtained by Protect the Public’s Trust via a Freedom of Information Act request and reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon show that Lubchenco was instrumental in producing a November memo directing federal agencies to incorporate “indigenous knowledge” into their decision making.
Indigenous knowledge posits that Native peoples possess truths about the workings of the universe due to their ethnic background. The White House guidance encourages federal regulators to consider the “spiritual” wisdom of native peoples when crafting policy.
Scientists have called this push a “dangerous” embrace of pseudoscience.
A marine ecologist by training, Lubchenco was appointed as the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by former president Barack Obama in 2009. The New York Times described her at the time as “an outspoken climate activist.”
During the Trump administration, Lubchenco taught at Oregon State University. Although out of government, she remained close with left-wing climate activists.