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AAAS Responds to Moves to Halt EPA and USDA Public Communications

Rush Holt


Holt questions potential ethical issues raised by administration moves to limit public communications at two agencies. | Chet Susslin/NationalJournal

AAAS CEO Rush Holt responded Tuesday to moves by the Trump administration to bar employees at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture from communicating with the media or engaging on social media.

“We are concerned about reports that federal agencies – including the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency – have issued directives to staff that may silence the voices of scientific researchers and others working for the federal government,” said Holt in a statement.

Holt held out hope that the measures are temporary and being taken as the agencies await Senate confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominees for the two departments. “Our hope is that this is a temporary measure put into place until the new government agency heads are confirmed by the Senate,” Holt said.

But Holt sounded concern about potential ethical and policy implications of such moves.

“Many federal agencies have existing scientific integrity policies that prohibit political interference in the public dissemination of scientific findings,” added Holt. “As the AAAS Council stated in 2006: Censorship, intimidation, or other restriction on the freedom of scientists employed or funded by governmental organizations to communicate their unclassified scientific findings and assessments not only to each other but also to policymakers and to the public is inimical to the advance of science and its appropriate application in the policy domain."

[Associated image: Credit: NRDC/Flickr CC BY 2.0]