In an August 15 email, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Chief of Staff Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming said EPA Science Advisor Bob Kavlock would review complaints from journalism (including SEJ) and open-government groups that scientists on EPA advisory panels were being told not to answer news-media or congressional inquiries without permission.
- SEJ Publication Types:Visibility:
Journalism and science groups, including SEJ, protested an August 12, 2014, "don't talk" memo from EPA's chief of staff. The memo makes it clear: members of the agency's many science advisory panels are not to talk to the news media or Congress without permission. Attached to the memo was an "EPA Policy" restricting communications between Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) committee members and parties outside EPA.
The startling admission only bolsters critics who say the conservative Harper government is suppressing science which does not support its politics — for example, its policies on global warming or oil sands.
Free online publication of peer-reviewed scientific articles is essential to environmental journalists. One publisher, Elsevier, caused a stir recently by demanding that several universities take their own scholars' research down from the web or social media.Topics on the Beat:
As efforts to suppress science go, the Interior Department's dunking-stool investigation of scientist Charles Monnett (who published observations that polar bears were drowning because of ice retreat) was quite a story. Now, with a $100,000 settlement, it is a story that may never be fully told, including whether there was evidence of political interference by top Interior officials.
OSHA's proposed silica rule "requests" (not requires) that commenters state clearly who paid for any research they cite and declare whether there may be possible conflicts of interest or whether the funder of the research may have influenced its findings. But 16 Senate Republicans have complained of OSHA's request for funding disclosure.
Thanks to the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, here are several recent Congressional Research Service reports relevant to environment and energy.
Eighty-six percent of the 4,069 scientists surveyed by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada said "that, if faced with a political decision putting public health, safety or the environment at risk, they do not believe they could speak out without repercussions."
Science is the key to many environmental stories, and EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) offers a wide range of data tools journalists may find worthwhile to explore.
Canada's Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault will be investigating the muzzling of Canadian scientists — a perennial complaint of SEJ's Canadian members who can not freely interview tax-funded scientists about subjects like climate. SEJ has twice urged Environment Canada to end such media policies, receiving no answer.