NOAA Science Integrity Policy Still Cloudy on News Media Access

April 6, 2011

Watch for publication in the Federal Register of the science integrity policy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) any day now. It will have a lot of impact on whether agency scientists can talk to reporters freely about climate change.

The draft policy, released recently by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), does not bode well. Unlike some other agency science integrity policies, it barely addresses media access — leaving this to the purview of the Commerce Department Public Communications Policy. That policy has not changed since the last year of the Bush administration.

Together, if they remain unchanged, the two documents weave a policy fabric that gives NOAA and Commerce Dept. press officers major say-so over which NOAA scientists can talk to news media, or whether they can talk at all. And like many agency policies, it bears the thumbprints of the Office of Management and Budget protecting its control of information via the so-called "Data Quality Act," which has not been upheld in court.