Watchdog Says Obama Not Protecting Whistleblower Scientists

June 15, 2011

A watchdog group is saying that the Obama White House is failing to fulfill its promise of improving scientific openness and integrity from the low levels of the Bush administration. New documents, released only after a lawsuit, show the White House is telling agencies they can stick with existing practices when it comes to political interference with science — and do just about anything they want.

A June 14, 2011, statement from the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) says the executive branch under Obama has been dragging its feet on a purported science integrity initiative for more than two years. PEER says: "Now the White House is urging [agencies] to adopt boilerplate language on key provisions, such as whistleblower protections for scientists, which provide no additional safeguards."

While scientific openness was supposed to be the watchword under a March 2009 Obama directive, the agencies' progress reports on developing the mandated integrity policies have so far been kept a secret by the White House.

PEER submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to the policy, and eventually went to court when the White House refused to provide some documents. In one document recently released, the White House tells agencies they can simply follow existing policies or the current weak whistleblower law.