For Immediate Release
Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Obama's Orphaned Science Integrity and Transparency Pledge
Promised Rules for Scientific Whistleblowers One Year Overdue and Counting
WASHINGTON - Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the date when new rules to
protect federal scientists and science from political interference were
supposed to have been in place. As a result, federal scientists
continue to report the same sort of suppression and skewing of
scientific and technical reports by agency managers that occurred under
the George W. Bush administration, according to Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
On March 9, 2009,
President Obama issued an Executive Memorandum to all federal
departments and agencies declaring his intent to adopt policies that
protect scientific integrity. The accompanying White House fact sheet
described the action as addressing "one of the President's key campaign
commitments on science policy, which was to ‘restore scientific
integrity in government decision making.'" That order directed the
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop proposed
policies for Presidential action by July 9, 2009. That deadline has long
since lapsed with no new due date and without a cogent explanation for
"The atmosphere under Obama for federal scientists
remains largely unchanged from the Bush era," stated PEER Executive
Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization works with federal scientists
seeking to remedy scientific misconduct and political obfuscation.
"Federal agency science is still manipulated for political reasons
largely because there are still no rules against it."
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muddled federal response to the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of
Mexico illustrates a lack of scientific transparency and candor in
agency decision-making. Key examples include -
- Without any
scientific undergirding, EPA approved widespread application of oil
dispersants deep underwater, despite the fact that these chemicals were
designed for surface application. EPA even lacked baseline information
about oil droplet size, the information it would need to measure just
how effective the dispersant is at breaking up the oil slicks;
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration has flip-flopped on
release of scientific observations about the size and nature of swelling
underwater oil plumes; and
- EPA also lacks information about
dioxin and other toxic byproducts of burning large expanses of oil in
"The BP spill shows Obama officials displaying
scientific opacity, not transparency in futile attempts at damage
control and news management," Ruch added. "The Obama White House is
seemingly so devoted to message control that it cannot tolerate
discordant, off-message transparency."
In addition, Obama
policies still embrace many of the hallmarks of what had been Bush
practices, such as gag orders on scientists, allowing industry to
control information submitted to the government (for example, much of
the data oil companies submit to the former Minerals Management Service
cannot be circulated even for purposes of peer review) and resisting
Freedom of Information Act requests for technical information.
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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.