A decade ago, Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) cared little about science. They were run by a staffer from the Democratic party who was put in the place to mobilize soft-money donations from friendly foundations and political committees. Republicans were in power - times were good for them.

Academic scientists barely noticed their partisan skew because Republicans Were Anti-Science. They accepted evolution by 9 percentage points less than Democrats, President Bush funded human embryonic stem cell research for the first time in the NIH but limited it to existing lines as a compromise, so UCS claimed he banned it. And there was that global warming thing.

Had the Internet been as popular in the 1990s, Democrats would have been the anti-science party instead - they killed the Superconducting Super Collider, they gutted NASA and NIH funding was tepid - but the 2000s were good for people who wanted to claim Democrats were the Party of Science.

Now things are much different. It has become clear that the anti-food, anti-vaccine and anti-energy contingent, all anti-science positions that are important, as opposed to evolution, which makes no difference in the daily lives of people, are on the left, and that has left partisan advocacy groups scrambling to stay relevant. At UCS, the loyal Democrat running the place who really sent them hard to the left in the quest for funding is now gone, he got his reward in the form of a staff post in the Obama administration, preventing any nuclear science from ever getting done, and so it may be that a new voice at Union of Concerned Scientists is making gradual changes and taking the group away from being partisan shills to being actual trusted guides for the public.

They are still firmly against most science, including genetic modification, but they have at least broken with other Democratic activist organizations by criticizing US Right To Know, which is entirely run and funded by political groups and corporations and seeks to bully scientists with Freedom of Information Act requests - the very thing UCS complained about when global warming skeptics were doing it to climate scientists.

Writing on their blog, Aaron Huertas notes there is a fine line between transparency and harassment, something few others on the environmental side seem to understand. Cranks like poor-man's-postmodernist Nassim Taleb can't see how anti-science they are, because in Feyerabend fashion he thinks crapping all over people who do real work is showing affection, and academics in journalism and ethics probably can't see why the public does not respect academics in ethics and journalism - but the public sees how Paul Thacker and Charles Seife botched a hit piece in PLOS Blogs so badly (they got basically nothing correct) that it should be taught in classes on how not to do journalism or critical thinking

How did Seife respond to even a question about his lack of accuracy from a politically sympathetic group like UCS? He told Huertas "he was “swamped” and had to stop short of addressing those points. “I’m afraid I’m out of time…if I get a chance before your deadline, I’ll see if I can answer more questions,”" - which, of course, never occurred.

Huertas has reason to be irked with the PLOS editorial. While the two academics were interested in taking down Professor Kevin Folta for US Right To Know, they also completely misrepresented his work and that of others at UCS. 

Welcome to the side of evidence and reason, at least this once UCS.