In Defiance of Trump, Website Helps Scientists Blow the Whistle on Political Interference

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In Defiance of Trump, Website Helps Scientists Blow the Whistle on Political Interference

The Union of Concerned Scientists has launched a website to help scientists become whistleblowers

A protest sign at the Women's March on January 21, 2017, in New York City.

A protest sign at the Women's March on January 21, 2017, in New York City. (Photo: Barry Solow/flickr/cc)

Facing a presidential administration committed to waging war on science, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) this week launched a website to help scientists blow the whistle on government interference in their work.

"[T]ogether, we can raise the political price of manipulating science or censoring scientists by exposing these actions and publicly communicating their consequences for public health and the environment," wrote deputy director for UCS Michael Halpern on Tuesday, when the site launched.

"Sometimes, this requires people within government or who are funded by government to speak up and share challenges that they experience or perceive," Halpern added.

President Donald Trump has cracked down on federal agencies' use of social media and access to reporters, demanded that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) submit research for political vetting before publishing, and deleted or hidden what were once public records from government websites. Scientists and coders have been racing to save climate change data from government servers before the administration deletes it.

"There have been a number of actions either proposed or taken by the transition team and the administration that make science more vulnerable to political interference," Halpern commented to InsideClimate News. "When you have hostile agency appointees, science becomes more vulnerable to political influence. So I think all these conditions taken together make it more important for federal employees to report what they see."

The website encourages scientists employed by state and federal agencies to share "memos, emails, directives, or any other documents;" to send "datasets or other information that has been altered or removed from public view;" and adds: "You can also describe anything that has been communicated orally or even rumors that you have heard, and we will investigate."

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

The UCS urges potential whistleblowers to use encrypted communications, anonymous email, and the postal service to send materials, and encourages following the Electronic Frontier Foundation's advice for protecting privacy.

Scientists driven to take part in politics as a result of the Trump administration's silencing of scientific research will also march on Washington in a massive March for Science to take place in Washington, D.C., on April 22, 2017.

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