…. administration officials are exerting more control over the agency’s [EPA] outward communications, according to multiple reports, including those by the Washington Post. Scientists have been alarmed by these moves, as well as the overall tenor of the administration on scientific issues like climate change (Trump has not yet appointed a White House science adviser) and some are even now planning a march on Washington, D.C.
Yet we shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves here. There has been no specific claim of an Environmental Protection Agency scientist being prevented from communicating or accurately conveying information to the public (yet). There is also reason to think that what’s happening now may only be temporary, and attributable to the transition that’s currently happening, rather than representing a permanent new setting for the science-politics relationship in government….
…But if it turns out that the scientific community’s worst fears are realized, it’s important to recognize that they will also have more tools to counter politicization today than they did a decade ago. The first such tool is the 2012 Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which “now provides protections for scientists who are being pressured to either change their results or downplay them or manipulate them in some way….” …The second reason scientists may be in a better position to resist politicization is a government-wide institution of scientific integrity policies adopted during the Obama years. For instance, politically vetting the communications of EPA scientists would likely violate that agency’s 2012 policy, which “facilitates the free flow of scientific information” and “prohibits all EPA employees, including scientists, managers, and other Agency leadership, from suppressing, altering, or otherwise impeding the timely release of scientific findings or conclusions.” That policy also says that scientists should “be available to answer inquiries from the news media regarding their scientific work.” For now, this scientific integrity policy remains operational. And while it certainly may be tested, undoing it entirely is likely to bring new controversy….